Whether you prefer land casinos or playing online on your smartphone, like most of us, you’ve given some thought to raising the lucky stakes and avoiding the evil eye. Read on to find out where your favourite gambling superstitions come from and whether there might be something to them.
Have you ever had an irrational fear or belief that has no valid reason to be real? Perhaps, you find yourself stepping over cracks and walking around ladders rather than under them. We’re willing to bet the answer is: “Yes, what’s all that about?!” You’re superstitious – along with most people, from the weirdest of souls to the most rational scientists. So put on your wellies, we’re about to wade into superstition’s murky depths!
We’ll start by saying that there are fears that are totally rational and have evolved over time to keep you safe. These include a fear of heights, snakes and spiders, or the dark. Those who mess with these things tend to spend a lot of time at the A&E!
A superstitious fear tends to have no rational basis at all. So, if the sight of the number 13 has your heart pounding or you’d rather step on black ice than a crack in the sidewalk, you’re superstitious. Of course, superstition doesn’t have to have anything to do with fear. Most of us will ‘touch wood’ if we think we’re tempting fate, wear our lucky socks to play that live casino game or squirrel away a lucky charm before heading off to play a game of chance. Let’s get started with what’s behind those common and not so common gambling superstitions.
1. Cross your fingers but not your legs
No special equipment needed but does require a bit of body coordination. We’ll start with the dos. Do cross your fingers. Everybody knows this is good luck, but why? Some scholars attribute this to a very old pagan belief that spirits were present at crossings. If you wanted to get the attention of a good spirit, you would make a ‘crossing’ with your fingers. Another belief involved making a wish, then inviting another person to cross their finger with yours as a sign of support (an ancient pinky promise, really).
The last theory involves secret hand signals. As Christianity spread through Rome and authorities tried to suppress the faith, Christians would die horrible deaths if found out. They would use secret signals to communicate with each other and the most obvious was the crossing of fingers.
Unlike the fingers, you don’t want to cross your legs while at a gaming table or while you play online. Here’s where things start to get murky. All anyone can come up with by way of explanation is that by crossing your legs, you’re effectively crossing out or cancelling your luck.
We suspect this ritual has its roots in the purely practical. As we all know, crossing your legs can signal tension in a player. If you play poker online, you’re okay, but if you’re playing at a table, you might have just fluffed a bluff by showing your opponent that you’re feeling tense about your hand. Crossing your legs for any length of time is also uncomfortable and can give you back problems in the long run. For a balanced pelvis and straight back, we think both feet on the floor is a gambling superstition that can also benefit your health.
2. Lucky clothes and colours
Now here’s one that can be hard to hide. The old gentleman at his favourite table game with a threadbare childhood cricket cap perched on his head is a dead giveaway. We can only imagine what clothing items are worn by online casino players in the privacy of their homes!
It’s generally accepted that the idea of lucky red came to us from the East. China is thought to be the origin of state-funded lotteries and our present-day deck of cards. So, it’s not too hard to see how red – the Chinese colour for happiness and good fortune – came to be thought of as a lucky colour. In the West, red is traditionally associated with life and passion. That’s double cause to believe that wearing red in a casino can bring you luck to improve your skills. It sure does raise interest into the story of luck versus skill.
The wearing of lucky clothing seems to be more personal in nature and is generally connected to individual experiences. For instance, you might have been wearing a particular blue shirt on two occasions when you received good news. Now, in your mind, you associate that shirt with good fortune. Interestingly enough, the most common item of lucky attire is red underpants. There may also be a psychological link to the security blanket many of us carted around as toddlers, until it was tacky and threadbare, and mum threw it away amidst floods of tears. We may still feel comforted as adults, even at a subconscious level, by having an equivalent in the form of a hat, shirt or lucky red undies.
3. Good luck charms
Let’s start with hanging a horseshoe for luck. Many historians believe this ritual started with the tale of a humble farrier who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 959 CE. Legend has it that Dunstan was shoeing a horse when the devil dropped by. He’d decided that he too could move around more comfortably if his cloven hooves were shod like a horse’s. The farrier agreed to do this, but placed the nails close to the sensitive quick (that’s the living part of the nail) to slow the devil down. It seems this is how the horseshoe came to symbolize tricking the devil or slowing down bad luck.
We especially like this lucky charm for sports betting since horses are some of nature’s ultimate athletes. Just keep the ends up and the curved bit down so all the luck stays in and doesn’t drain out. It’s also best to avoid visiting casinos with a large metal horseshoe in hand. Instead, smaller horseshoe charms for keyrings or the like, are easy enough to come by and a lot less cumbersome.
You’ll no doubt know this one: “Find a penny, pick it up, and all that day, you’ll have good luck.” You might still be holding onto a lucky penny that sits on your computer console, bright and shiny, as you login to your favourite site.
Some scholars strip the lucky penny superstition down to the shiny metal. Long ago, metal was scarce so those who found it, believed it was a gift from the gods and would protect the finder from misfortune. The lucky penny is one of the most common gambling superstitions across the world. In some cultures, it’s only good luck if you find the penny head-side up while in others, finding a coin with a date stamp that is the same as your birth year is especially lucky. The Irish custom of spitting on a penny and throwing it into the shrubs was seen as payment for the good luck granted by fairies and leprechauns.
4. Superstitious numbers
Exactly which numbers are lucky depends largely on culture. In China, the number four is considered bad luck because it sounds similar to the word for death. While in some Western cultures, it’s the number 13 that brings bad luck (although in Italy it is a sacred Fibonacci number and represents good fortune). Thirteen is the least bet on number in roulette and some large establishments even avoid marking the 13th floor or door in their complex. This superstition could come from the date 13 October 1307 which was the day many of the French Knights Templar were arrested and tortured.
When it comes to good luck, seven is considered the luckiest of them all, which is why many slots machines award the jackpot for 7 consecutive symbols on a payline. Historians suggest this may have started in ancient times when newly-seen planets were visible in the sky and the ancient Romans created seven corresponding gods. It’s a similar case in many religious systems the world over. There were seven Egyptian gods, Hinduism has seven major energy centres in the body, and the Arabians built seven holy temples.
5. Lucky casino etiquette
Two popular gambling customs to know: never count your money at the table, and to look away or leave the table then return once a result is in. These could come down to a fear of gloating and the belief that pride comes before a fall.
Then there’s the more obscure practice of shouting curses at the roulette ball until it stops spinning. We’d advise against this. Apart from being plain weird, you’re likely to worry or offend fellow gamblers and get yourself escorted off the premises.
“You better knock, knock on wood,” Amii Stewart advised in the 1979 hit R&B classic. This could refer to the habit of touching a wooden crucifix around the neck when asking for protection or a blessing. Many believe it goes all the way back to the pagan belief that spirits lived in trees and people would knock on tree trunks to ask the spirits for help, or thank them when things went well. Just a note of caution: when done too often, this habit can be extremely annoying for other players so use in moderation!
And last but not least, a surprising number of casino patrons believe it’s best to avoid the front entrance of the building because the bad luck of those who may have lost and are leaving, could rub off on you. Even if you truly believe this, we’d advise against trying to get in a window or through the back, if you don’t want to spend the night in the nick instead of at your favourite gambling hall.
Playing live at Grosvenor Casinos is a truly unique, first-class online casino experience. Players get the chance to indulge their weirdest gambling superstitions while they enjoy all their favourite live casino games with no download required to play – just an awesome experience every time. So don’t wait. Join us today!