Here, we’ll delve into – and debunk – three of the more common myths related to gambling.
3. Prior outcomes affect results, aka The Gambler’s Fallacy
Simply put, The Gambler’s Fallacy is the belief that during the observation of random chance, the frequency of events occurring during some arbitrary period means that said events will occur more or less frequently in the future.
In practice, a classic example would be a roulette player seeing the number 19 hit three times in the past six spins. This player might believe that 19 is now less likely to be hit in the future.
At the same time, perhaps all the last six spins were red; now this player believes that black is “due” to hit.
You can immediately see the problem with this thinking. Some people may view a higher-than-expected frequency of events (such as six reds in a row) and believe that means red is more likely to come up next, as it is “on a streak”; other players might think black must come up next.
Of course, each spin of the roulette wheel is totally independent of every other. If you flip a coin ten times in a row and it comes up tails each time, the chances of it coming up tails on the next flip are still 50 percent.
2. The Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy
Now you know about The Gambler’s Fallacy, it’s time to meet its mirror. The Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy is similar, in that it involves mistakenly believing that independently random events affect one another, but this time it’s in reverse.
The Inverse Gambler’s Fallacy occurs when a player concludes, upon observing an event, that said event must have occurred many times before. To continue with the roulette example, the player who saw 19 come up for consecutive spins may (incorrectly) conclude that 19 has been a “hot” number and has come up on this wheel many times.
1. Luck balances out and “downswings” exist
In a way, this is related to The Gambler’s Fallacy as it involves the belief that independently random events affect one another. Many gamblers believe that luck “balances out,” meaning that a run of bad luck will at some point be countered by an equal run of good luck.
Again, we can see that the thinking does not make sense because people draw totally opposing conclusions from the same information. Let’s take someone who is on a losing streak – they might believe that they are having a bad run and shouldn’t play any longer.
However, a different person on the same losing streak might believe that their luck has to balance out and that they should keep playing. Once again, neither is correct and random chance is just that – random!
Of course, the more you flip a coin the more the data will trend towards 50/50 outcomes, but most casual casino players will never play enough to come close to a significant sample size to truly “balance out” their wins and losses.
The idea of a “downswing” is a particularly common amongst poker and online poker players, especially those who are long-term winners. Naturally, the element of luck in poker means that even the best professional poker players cannot win all the time; sometimes, they can go on long losing streaks known as “downswings.”
Downswings are not a tangible thing and there is no length to them; they are not part of “balancing out” luck or reaching long-term expectations. They are simply observed patterns in mathematical samples and should be largely ignored.