The Gambler's Fallacy and why it's every casino player's worst enemy

Roulette Wheel

When it comes to gambling there are so many probability theories and systems out there and some like the belief that future events can be predicted by examining the past, may even seem quite logical.

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While past events can assist in predicting the future outcomes in some disciplines, gambling is definitely not one of them! As every statistician knows, gambling is about odds and probabilities and being unfamiliar with how these function can result in unwitting gamblers seeing patterns that simply don't exist and can cost a fortune in losses.

So what exactly is the Gambler's Fallacy? The Gambler's Fallacy suggests that the outcome of an individual event is dependent on previous outcomes. Or to simply by way of example, the odds of flipping a coin so that tails comes up 10 times in a row are very low, so low in fact that they are about 1 in a million. So if you have flipped a coin and tails is the result 9 times in a row you may wish to wager that the next flip will be tails again based on the flips that you have just witnessed. BUT this would be a mistake because once the 9 flips have taken place the odds of the next flip being either heads or tails, just like each of the preceding flips is 1 in 2 (either heads or tails). This is because the coin has no memory of the results that have gone before and the notion that a specific outcome is "due" because it has or has not appeared before is the Gambler's Fallacy.

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As you can probably already tell, The Gambler's Fallacy does cause a great deal of problems for players in a number of casino games and it seems that some, like Roulette with its grids of past numbers played, are set up to encourage players to buy into it and look for what "pattern" they can find to determine which number or colour is "due" next. This is really an illusion as no number is more "due" than any other and when examined logically it is easy to see that another player could decide that certain numbers or a colour that appears frequently are "hot" and bet on them appearing again. As with the coin, the roulette wheel has no memory of past and present results and cannot adjust results accordingly, the same is true for dice in craps and cards in blackjack. Placing any kind of value in the Gamblers Fallacy will just result in larger than anticipated losses.

It seems part of human nature to look for patterns in life and adjust our behaviour accordingly and while we can intellectually understand that random events do occur, we are still trained to seek explanations and links when we encounter a series of random events.

Even with an understanding of the Gambler's Fallacy it often difficult to resist the urge to bet on a "feeling" but oftentimes you'll find that it will be a losing bet and it is always best to let logic rather than emotion reign when playing your favourite casino game.

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