Never have truer words been spoken than these I found quoted on a popular gambling forum today: “He is a foolish mortal who thinks his luck secure and so rejoices; for Fortune, like a madman in her moods, springs towards this man, then towards that; and no one ever experiences the same unchanging luck. ” – Hecabe 1. Euripides, Daughters of Troy 1204
I’ve been contemplating the whole basis of “luck” for some time, and I’ve occasionally wondered whether it’s simply an academic concept, or whether it really does exist. That might sound a bit bizarre to some readers – but I’ve always believed, as a skilled blackjack player with an (albeit tiny) edge over the house, that you somehow create your own “luck”. If you research the game, if you play it well accordingly to mathematically calculated rules, if you can count the cards and play with discipline, then you’ll be “lucky” – or in short, you’ll win. That doesn’t mean you’ll win EVERY session – Standard Deviation dictates that there will be good and bad cycles over the long term. But it does mean you’ll (normally) win more often than the average player who hasn’t researched the game to the same level of detail.
At parallel opposites, if you’re a slot player who insists on playing a machine over which getting a long term edge is impossible due to its programming, and which you know in the long term will take for itself a whopping 5% or more of everything you put into it, should you be surprised when you don’t win? If you don’t get a jackpot or good payout on a typical night, have you really been “unlucky”? Or have the odds of the game simply caught up with you?
And therein lies the basis for my dilemma… is luck real, or something we create?
I know that casinos want us to THINK that there is luck involved. That feeling of the games being played somehow being “random” in nature and their house edges being able to be overcome simply by being “lucky” is what fuels a lot of us to enter their doors. “If only I could be lucky tonight, I could make enough to have a holiday”, “Luck be a lady tonight”, “I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky…”. Luck is one thing perhaps, but the odds of the game are another – and its those odds that give the casino their income in the long term. Do the casinos really believe in luck, or do they believe solely in the mathematical edge they hold on every game they offer? I’m convinced it’s the latter – but I bet the casino feels “lucky” every night as they count our hard earned cash in their count rooms…
I can understand how the concept of luck can become ingrained in our minds as gamblers. For example, I’m thinking that if we play casino games with a small edge, like craps, baccarat (no tie), and blackjack, that we’ll win more often. That makes logical sense. Our brain then connects a “euphoric pathway” – we feel happy when we win, and because we win on these games most often, we feel “luckier” when playing these games. That’s fine, but then we start to believe in the concept of “luck” rather than our own playing abilities – and we begin telling our friends “Oh, I was so lucky tonight! I’ve made enough for the week’s groceries.”
Through sharing our experiences of the “luck” we’ve had, it becomes self propagating. Soon everyone else thinks we’re “lucky” too… I’ll admit, I’ve had people tell me “you’re a lucky player” in casinos, and I’ve not tried to change their minds. Maybe feeling “lucky” makes me feel good – and so I relax more, play better, and win more. That could be “lucky” in itself.
So, I’m not the only gambler in the world. What are your views on this? What do you think about the concept of luck? Is it real? Is it viable? Let me know your thoughts via the comments area, or email me (see my profile for details).