The Gambler’s Fallacy is a belief that if one outcome occurs more frequently than normal, this outcome will be reduced in the future. Of course, the outcome in all games has a certain “chance,” based on percentages.

One player can get “21” in blackjack eight times in a row, but he or she still has the same chance of “21” on the ninth or tenth hands.

There’s not a “balance of nature” that will change the course of a game. Professional players know that the odds don’t change, but new players often fall into the trap and will continue to deplete their entire bankroll on the same game.

What’s the Gambler’s Fallacy?

The gambling fallacy is a phenomenon where players believe that the odds must move in their favor. Players believe that the randomness of a game, roulette for example, must become predictable over time.

The player may think that a certain number is “due” after 100 games due to losing multiple times in a row.

Odds, in any game, remain the same for every new game played. It’s possible, in roulette, that it will land on black 100 times in a row, albeit very unlikely.

The Start of the Monte Carlo Fallacy

The Monte Carlo Casino is where this fallacy is said to have originated way back in 1913. Players at the casino assumed that after the second or third time the roulette ball landed on black, the odds would eventually change.

gamblers fallacy

Game after game, people started to bet on red. They continued betting multiple times, over and over no matter how much they lost.

And for 26 games in a row, the ball landed on black. Millions of francs were bet during this time, and this is the perfect gambler’s fallacy example. Players believed there must be some sort of balance, and when the ball landed on red, everyone bet on red with the idea that the game must balance out with a long streak of the ball landing on red.

The reverse gambler’s fallacy was also seen during the game, where people assumed that the ball would continue to land on black.

There was never a long streak of the ball landing on red. There was never an imbalance in the game. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, but the odds are always the same. The chances of the ball landing on black 26 times in a row are slim, but it can happen and did happen in 1913.

Of all the examples of Gambler’s Fallacy, this is the one incident that continually pops up. You can try this for yourself:

You have a 50/50 chance of landing on heads or tails, yet you might land on heads 15 times and tails 35 times if you flip the coin 50 times.

Games are independent of what happened in the past, with the same odds for each new game.

What About Probability and Variance?

The gamblers paradox brings up another good question: what about variance? When you play a game like slots, you’ll notice that there’s a probability of winning. Casinos have to make money to stay in business, and while the rules are fair, there may be an advantage for the casino.

In roulette, for example, the ball can land on green or 0. Due to this small chance, the casino has a 2.7% advantage against the player.

Variance, when it’s high, can be seen as volatility. When a game is very volatile in its outcome, there’s a chance that you can win or lose big.

The variance or probability that casinos list are often over a massive number of games.

In a small sample size, you may have a 60% chance that the roulette ball will fall on black. But if the sample is 100,000 games, the probability of winning should be closer to 50/50.

Psychology has a lot to say about the belief that things will change. Some psychologists state that this same concept is applied to a lot of relationships where there’s a belief that a person who is abusive will change from one week to the next. Because they were abusive last week, this week must be better.

The same can be seen in the number of men and women in the world. Hypothetically, there should be an even 50/50 split of men and women, but even with 7.8 billion people, men outnumber women 102 to 100, with some statistics being higher for men.

Will the higher number of men in the world mean you’re going to have a girl? No. This can directly correlate to gambling where just because you lost 40 games in a row, doesn’t mean you’ll win your 41st game.

Avoiding Falling into the Gambler’s Fallacy

A lot of gamblers will use betting systems and choose to play games that they feel they know and understand the best. The goal is to not get superstitious or fall into the fallacy. You’ll find that the older you are, the less likely you are to fall into the fallacy.

You can avoid falling into this trap in a few ways:

Betting systems try to beat the odds and help you recover from your losses. For example, the Martingale System is a popular choice among gamblers. The idea is that if you bet £5 and you lose, you’ll bet £10 on the next game.

Eventually, you’re bound to win and recuperate your money in the process. The problem is that this system is severely limited based on your bankroll.

Called “negative progression,” these systems can lead to major losses and are bound to fail eventually. In fact, professional gamblers warn that such systems are doomed to failure.

There’s no system guaranteed to help you win more than what’s probable. Randomness can always lead to you losing a bet. The best that you can do is educate yourself on the random nature of games and not fall into the mindset that your odds must change eventually.

If you don’t stay within your bankroll, you’re at risk of significant losses.

About author

Author
Harry Burth
Digital Marketing Manager, Blog editor
Experience:3 years

Harry is a long-time member of our team and has been working with CasinoHEX UK for a number of years.

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Author
Harry Burth
Digital Marketing Manager, Blog editor
Experience:3 years

Harry is a long-time member of our team and has been working with CasinoHEX UK for a number of years.

Reviewer
Harry Burth
Digital Marketing Manager, Blog editor
Experience:3 years

Harry is a long-time member of our team and has been working with CasinoHEX UK for a number of years.