The major mistake a lot of gamblers
make is their belief in "luck."
A disturbing result of the research
of psychologist Willem Wagenaar shows that many people believe
that chance and luck are different things.
People trust a lucky number, a lucky
rabbit's foot, or some other lucky thing to make them rich. U.S.
psychologist Wagenaar and his associates found that people believed
``You should wait until luck happens, and in that sense it is
much like chance. On the other hand you can lose your luck easily
by using it unwisely. You can also fail to utilise it, when it
happens, for instance by not even noticing that this is your lucky
day, or lucky deck, or lucky dealer. In this sense, the utilisation
of luck is more like a skill.''
Many also believe that luck is more
important than skill and more than twice as important as chance
in determining the outcome of a gamble. In reality, most gambles
are determined entirely by chance, with no influence of skill
or luck. Yet greed makes us believe that there are moments when
the universe or some cosmic force wants to make us richer.
This belief in luck indicates a failure
of parents and schools to teach the basic truths and facts necessary
to avoid fraud and deception. Gamblers' belief in luck and in
the influence of skill in using their luck makes them susceptible
to deception and manipulation by lotteries, casinos and other
The second major mistake that people
make, and which increases their tendency to gamble, is called
"availability error" by psychologists.
This is the common tendency we all
have to focus only on good, unusual, or easily remembered experiences,
forgetting the bad, common, or less available ones. For example,
hearing that someone has won the lottery sticks in our mind more
than hearing that someone has lost the same lottery.
We remember winners more than losers,
and mistakenly think that the chances match our memory. This explains
why people put more money into the pokies that are in large groups,
where they can hear and see signs that others are winning, rather
than into lone machines, where they have no recent memory of someone's
winning. And people consistently do this, despite the fact that
the odds are just as bad for the group as for the lone machine.
Memories of winners are simply
more available for the large groups than the loners.
We may also think that if we know
or have heard of a winner it must not be very hard to win. Many
people have a story about how their Aunt Mary or their brother-in-
law's boss's friend once won the jackpot in the lottery or a pokie.
But there are several things that are omitted from such stories.
Most important is the fact that Aunt Mary also lost thousands
of dollars in the slot machines and lotteries both before and
after winning her hundred-dollar "jackpot."
Many so-called "jackpots"
are really only small prizes that barely cover the cost of playing,
and which serve to entice people to continue playing and losing
more money. They take advantage of our tendency toward availability
error and exploit our memory of the one "win" while
encouraging us to forget the many losses.
The same can be said for people who
chase quadrellas and super 6 jackpots all of the time rather than
regarding them as recreational bets - remember - for fun?
Moreover, when we hear the story
of our brother-in-law's boss' friend's win, we tend to assume
that because we have heard of this person and have some connection
to him or her, however remote, winning must be more likely than
we had thought.
But we never hear the story of our
co-worker's Uncle Mack who lost a thousand dollars playing multi
pick entries in lotto.
And if we wanted to hear all the
stories of the times that our relatives' acquaintances' friends
or our friends' acquaintance's relatives lost money while gambling,
we would have no time for anything else. Indeed, by such a chain
of associations you can hear the story of essentially every other
person in Australia.
racing systems and research