VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: Streaks Can be Harnessed

VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: Streaks Can be Harnessed

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In the long run, the law of averages always applies. All numbers, colors, and other symbols in randomized casino games will hit according to how many of each there are. However, the short run is the only period available to gamblers in which to make decisions. And in the short run, all bets on what will happen next in randomized casino games are off.

This is how A.I. responded when asked to render a photo of the gambler’s fallacy as applied to roulette. (Image: ChatGPT)
Failing to see the truth in the above statement is what’s known as the gambler’s fallacy.

Streaks of Nature
The perception of streaks in random events is a function of how our brains are evolutionarily hard-wired. We see patterns everywhere, even where none exist.

On the plains of Africa, connecting a rustle in the tall grass to a dangerous predator was quite a useful skill. And so, those ancestors of ours who used it to avoid becoming a tiger’s lunch got to pass on their genes for strong pattern-spotting all the way down to us.

Of course, the cost of falsely confusing the wind for a tiger on the plains was relatively low, especially compared to the opposite!

And that’s why, as biologists Kevin Foster and Hanna Kokko explained in their 2008 paper, “The Evolution of Superstitious Behavior,” human evolution favors “strategies that make many incorrect causal associations in order to establish those that are essential for survival and reproduction.”

The Price of Being Wrong
Incorrect causal associations are considerably more costly to make on the Las Vegas Strip, however, which is precisely why it is lined with so many expensive buildings. And, casino operators aren’t above exploiting flaws in human reasoning to finance additional expensive buildings.

This display advertises that nine straight black numbers have just hit on a casino roulette wheel. Unless the wheel is biased, which is highly unlikely, a black number is just as likely to come up next as it was during each of the previous spins. (Image: X/Twitter/@BrandonVanZee)
Case in point: the digital displays on roulette tables of recent winning numbers and colors. These encourage players to mistakenly perceive and take advantage of patterns that don’t really exist.

Some fancier and more brazen displays even show “hot” and “cold” numbers.

No matter how many times a number or color has come up before, its chances of coming up again are always the try this out same.

“As the saying goes, patterns like that happen only in the rear-view mirror,” Anthony Curtis, gambling expert and publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, told “You can only look back and see what they did. Hence, there’s no associated strategy you can use to predict them.”

The gambler’s fallacy also applies to patterns in our own winning and losing.

Though we have all experienced streaks of good luck that continue in the face of impossible odds, or nights when every bet we place seems cursed, neither experience ever really happened to us — at least not in the way it seemed to.

“Streaks — good and bad — will happen due to the nature of probability, but you can’t predict them,” Curtis said. “Players want to believe they can get ‘hot’ and harness that, but they never get hot. They experience normal fluctuation in results and that’s not something that can be harnessed.”

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