Do Not Fall Into The Trap of Gambler’s Fallacy

Gambler’s Fallacy is a phenomenon that many casino game players suffer from at least once in their lives. Find out more right here.

The human brain is a remarkable thing that even the best scientists do not understand. The brain is preprogrammed to detect patterns even when no such patterns exist. This is particularly damaging in regards to gambling, and often leads to a phenomenon known as gambler’s fallacy.

We see you scratching your head and asking what is gambler’s fallacy? It is something we guarantee you have been guilty of at least once in your life. Gambler’s fallacy is the incorrect belief that if an event occurs more frequently than normal during the past, it is less likely to happen in the future, or vice versa. The fallacy happens when such events are independent of each other, meaning past result have no bearing on the future.

For example, we have fair dice that we roll a few dozen times. You notice hardly any sixes rolled during our sample. You believe a six is more likely to roll now because there have not been many recently. How often has the dealer shown an ace in blackjack and you “just know” they have blackjack because they have had it several times before? The likelihood of the dealer’s blackjack is exactly the same as if this was your very first hand. These are perfect examples of gambler’s fallacy.

Gambler’s Fallacy in Action

Many games begin with a coin toss, which we all know has 50/50 chance of landing on heads or tails. Tossing a coin a billion times will likely see heads and tales almost evenly split. However, small sample sizes can and do throw up some unlikely results.

Take a fair coin and toss it 21 times. Do not worry about the maths, but the probability of 21 heads in a row is one in 2,097,152. Obviously, this is very unlikely but entirely possible. Look at the odds of winning the lottery, someone wins the lottery frequently.

However, people fail to realise the probability of 20 heads then one tails is the exact same. Indeed, all 21 possible outcomes have the same probability.

A famous example of gambler’s fallacy occurred at the Monte Carlo Casino on August 18, 1913. The casino won millions of francs, the currency in France at the time, when a freak set of roulette results relieved punters of their bankrolls. The ball landed on black 26 times in a row. This is extremely uncommon, and the chances are approximately one in 66.6 million! Punters bet against black because they incorrectly believed the next spin had to land on red. Indeed, the chance of the next spin being red was the exact same as during the middle of the unlikely string of blacks.

Why Does This Phenomenon Happen?

Gambler’s fallacy occurs because humans spot patterns that sometimes are not there. Furthermore, most people struggle to understand how frequently long shots happen over a large sample.

Edmond Hoyle studied this in his book, Hoyle’s Games. Hoyle tossed a coin and noted when it landed one way five consecutive times. He found in around half of those case that it went the same way again. In addition, noting all the times it landed one way six times, half of the occurrences saw it land the same way seven times.

This results in 15 consecutive heads or tails at least once in every 200,000 tosses. That seems like a large number but it is not in maths. Consider playing roulette at an online casino. A typical wheel spins 4,000 times per week, which is 200,000 per year. The ball will land on red or black at least 15 times consecutively at least once during that time.

How Do You Avoid Falling Victim to the Fallacy?

Teaching yourself about odds and probabilities is the best way to not fall victim to gambler’s fallacy. You do not need a degree in maths, but a basic understanding helps.

In addition, slow down when gambling and think about your decision. Realise that every outcome is independent and has no bearing on previous results. Remember the chance of another red coming after 20 straight reds is still the same as if a red has never landed! Good luck!