But there’s no need to feel down on your luck. It turns out you can have a hand in creating your own. Research has shown that lucky gamblers actually think themselves into winning and losing streaks all the time. Richard Wiseman is a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of Luck Factor. He’s studied more than 1,000 people and their luck, and ran a series of experiments he called “Luck School.” He confirmed that some people definitely have more luck than others, but also that unlucky people can be taught to bring more luck into their lives.
“What the work shows as a whole is that people can change their luck,” he says. “Luck is not something paranormal in nature. It’s something that we are creating by our thoughts and behaviour.” This is good news, as our brains don’t really want to believe in randomness. They like to think we have some control. According to David J. Linden’s book, “The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good,” it’s why craps players will throw dice less forcefully when they want low numbers. So, how to wrestle control of luck and make it work in your favour? Here’s how to improve your luck in gambling.
GO WITH YOUR GUT
Research has found there is something to be said for intuition, so if you want to increase your luck, go with your gut more often. As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California discovered, it’s faster than your mind. She says it’s important to pay attention to “somatic markers,” which come from the parts of the brain that are responsible for social emotions and cue responses to threats. They are what send messages that tell us when something feels right — or not.
Her theory was that the more you pay attention to the outcome of trusting your intuition in combination with facts, the better your future decision- making can become. She tested her theory in an experiment called the Iowa Gambling Task. As part of it, decision makers learned from experience to choose among four decks of cards that produce both wins and losses.
At the University College, London, researchers confirmed that the idea of a ‘hot hand’ or a lucky streak is indeed a thing — but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. As part of their study, “ Carry on winning: The gamblers’ fallacy creates hot hand effects in online gambling”, published in 2014, the team discovered people suffering from the hot hand fallacy unreasonably expect winning streaks to continue, whereas those suffering from the gamblers’ fallacy unreasonably expect losing streaks to reverse.
The researchers studied 565,915 sports bets made by 776 online gamblers and found people who won were more likely to win again. They stayed calm and confident, which saw them make smarter bets. As for those on a losing streak? They were more likely to keep losing — they increased their odds of another losing bet with each successive loss. The selection of safer odds after winning and riskier ones after losing indicates that online sports gamblers expected their luck to turn: they suffered from the gamblers’ fallacy. They felt they were due for a win. “The result is ironic: Winners worried their good luck was not going to continue, so they selected safer odds,” the researchers wrote. By doing so, they became more likely to win. The losers expected the luck to turn, so they took riskier odds. However, this made them even more likely to lose. The gamblers’ fallacy created the hot hand.
YOUR SUPERSTITIONS AREN’T SILLY
If someone has ever made fun of you for always wearing your god awful winning shirt at the slots, you can take solace in now having the last laugh. Whether it’s a rabbit’s paw, a lucky coin or a specific routine before you head out to gamble, good luck charms and superstitions actually work. “I watch a lot of sports, and I read about sports, and I noticed that very often athletes – also famous athletes – hold superstitions,” says researcher Lysann Damisch of the University of Cologne. “Michael Jordan wore his college team shorts underneath his NBA uniform for good luck; Tiger Woods wears a red shirt on tournament Sundays, usually the last and most important day of a tournament.“She wondered why they all did it. Her hunch was that a belief in superstition might help people do better by improving their confidence — and along with her colleagues, they found that was indeed the case. While these charms don’t have the power to make the cards fall differently at the blackjack table, anything that makes you feel lucky makes you more confident and optimistic, which gives you more grit and resilience, which ultimately helps you play your best. A good word also goes a long way. Damisch and her team found wishing someone luck or telling them you’ll keep your fingers crossed helped them perform better. So there you go — spread the good karma around when you’re at the slots.
DELUSION CAN BE YOUR FRIEND
Being deluded isn’t all bad. When people overestimate their abilities, it actually raises their utility by deluding them into believing they’re more able than they are. It also leads people to choose more challenging tasks. “Psychologists have found that moderate overconfidence is both pervasive and advantageous and that people maintain such beliefs by underweighting new information about their ability,” Bruce A. Weinberg said in a 2009 discussion paper.
Keep it in check, however. Extreme overconfidence isn’t the way to go, as it leads people to undertake tasks that are excessively challenging. And when you’re gambling, that kind of attitude can get costly quick!
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