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Two Examples of the Illusion of Winning

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Do you believe a player can identify patterns in the game of craps? For example, I was playing next to a player – who, by the way wasn’t winning a tremendous amount of money, but was winning none-the-less – and he bet according to the spacing of rolls between the 7’s appearing. You have always stated that each toss of the dice is a random event and that there is no way of knowing what the next roll will be. But still! Care to comment? Bob H.

I believe your comrade in arms on that crap game is wasting his time trying to identify a “pattern” in a sequence of rolls. Superstitious gamblers believe there is a surreptitious relationship between rolls that determine which numbers will come up next, and only they, through the trial and error of 200 simulated craps rolls at the kitchen table, are all-knowing and can predict the winning outcome of the next roll.

Every outcome is an independent event based on the process of random selection, and no “pattern” can influence that. Myths and superstitious beliefs in gambling are usually false, and, unfortunately, can be dangerous as well because these irrational beliefs can give a player the illusion that they have the ability to control the outcome. They believe they possess clairvoyant math skills above a 6th-grade level, and will keep on gambling and gambling, falsely believing that if they follow a specific pattern of when the 7 appears, their luck is bound to change. When someone happens to win it is because, by chance, winning rolls occur and not because of reliance on a “pattern” system.

Finally, if the player in question was on the Pass line, taking odds, or just placing the 6 or 8, which are wagers that have a low-house edge, with 7’s few and far between, you can’t help but rack up some chips on the rail.

Dear Mark: Although this question has nothing to do with casino gambling, it is nevertheless a question about chance. When I am at social activities like a Fish Fry, high school basketball games, Knights of Columbus dinners, etc., I inevitably purchase at least $10 worth of 50/50 raffle tickets. Although to date I have not won anything, I have multiple times had numbers which were next to the winning number. It is uncanny how many times that has happened. Am I getting close, or is there nothing to this? Marilyn C.

A 50-50 raffle fundraising event simply involves the sale of raffle tickets, usually as low as a $1, with the proceeds split evenly between the winner and some organization.

Personally, Marilyn, I find nothing wrong with donating a little something to an organization in support of a worthwhile cause. Consider me guilty as charged for chasing that same pot. Moreover, I am “all in” for a platter of cod and cheesy scalloped potatoes during Lent. That said, far too many raffle ticket holders think that they were “this close” to having a winning ticket – their ticket was number 2524, but the winning number was 2525.

They may think they had a near win, but they are going home like all the others, with zippo! Like most gambling scenarios, your “almost” winning “multiple times” does not mean you are any closer to sharing the pot with the K of C. That is because future gambling outcomes are in no way influenced by previous ones.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Mike, there's two things a gentleman does not discuss - the ladies he's known and poker.” – Brett Maverick