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Horse racing luck and winners

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 gambling establishments.

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.

Horse racing systems and research