We can all think of lucky people who seem to be in the right place at the right time, meet the right people, win all the money at the gaming tables and go from one success to another. I recently read a news story on the internet highlighting that luck is indeed about being in the right place at the right time. The story concerned a waitress at a Las Vegas casino who won $362,259 during her lunch break. After playing for 15 minutes, she won the largest slot jackpot payout ever. However, only three months later, her car was hit by a drunk driver who had 17 previous arrests for drunk driving. She was seriously injured and her older sister was killed. This time she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
McGambling’s golden arches
When applied to the world of gambling, our belief in luck has huge political and financial ramifications. Until 1978, Nevada was the only US state where gambling was legal. By 2005, almost all states had a lottery (although ironically not Nevada), and today, casinos have even sprung up on Indian reservations. This ‘domino effect’ phenomenon has been described by media commentators as the ‘McGambling’ and ‘Las Vegasing’ of the US. In short, politicians view legalised gambling and people’s belief in luck as a magic bullet to cure ailing state economies that are motivated by the ‘pathology of hope’. The UK doesn’t appear to be that far behind. Canada also now has a large number of casinos and not just confined to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; with the business case often trumping the social or moral case when planning decisions arise. Unlike the U.S though there's a lax regulatory regime managing internet casinos with Canadians able to deposit and play quite easily at these types of offshore casino sites.
Given people’s widespread beliefs about luck, there’s been relatively little psychological research on the subject. Professor Richard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire has spent many years studying luck and believes he’s discovered four principles of luck and knows how to help people improve their good fortune. The results of this work reveal that people aren’t born lucky. Instead, lucky people are unconsciously using four basic principles to create good fortune in their lives. These could also be applied to gambling situations. Wiseman’s research has involved him being with those who define themselves as either lucky or unlucky, and examining the reasons why. Wiseman started by asking randomly chosen UK shoppers whether they had been lucky or unlucky in several different areas of their lives, including their careers, relationships, home life, health and financial matters. Of those adults he surveyed, 50% considered themselves lucky and 16% unlucky. Those lucky or unlucky in one area were more likely to report the same in other areas. Most experienced either consistent good or bad fortune. Professor Wiseman therefore concluded that luck could not simply be the outcome of chance events.
So what do lucky people do that is different from unlucky people? Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities by networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences. Also, lucky people listen to lucky hunches. They make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. For example, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts. Thirdly, lucky people expect good fortune. They are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way. Finally, lucky people turn bad luck into good. They employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on the ill fortune, and take control of the situation.
So can ‘lucky’ people win at gambling without trying? Professor Wiseman tested this proposition by getting 700 people to gamble on the National Lottery. The ‘lucky’ participants were twice as confident of winning as the ‘unlucky’ ones. However, results showed that only 36 participants actually won any money, and these were split evenly between the two groups. The study showed that being lucky doesn’t change the laws of probability!
Luck is a mindset
Research has also shown lucky people use body language and facial expressions that other people find attractive, smiling twice as often as the unlucky and engaging in more eye contact. Also, they’re more likely to have a broad network of friends and take advantage of favourable opportunities. Lucky people view misfortune as shortlived and overcome it quickly. Those who expect to fail may not even try. Lucky people try to achieve their goals even when the odds are against them. Luck isn’t a magical ability or a gift from the gods. It is a mind-set, a way of perceiving and dealing with life. This is something gamblers should know and try to apply to their daily gambling activity.
Read more fascinating gambler psychology stories here: Bet You Buy The Red Car