The Gambler’s Fallacy and How You Can Avoid It

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BetMGM Nov 17, 2023, 9:45 AM

How did a misconception about gambling risks travel all the way from a Monte Carlo casino in 1913 to contemporary global casinos? The gambler’s fallacy is so pervasive among gamblers that it’s come to be accepted as a reliable instinct. Whether or not you’ve heard about this fallacy before, chances are it has influenced the choices you’ve made in online casino games. 

Let’s uncover the deception known as the gambler’s fallacy and explain why virtually all players face it when they play casino table games. Keep reading if you want to learn more about this fallacy and how you can avoid its influence on your decision-making. 

What is The Gambler’s Fallacy?

So, what is the gambler’s fallacy? Everyone would agree that some series of events, such as the toss of a coin, the roll of a die, or the results produced by random number generators (RNGs), are completely random and that the outcome of each event is completely independent of one another. For insurance, the outcome of one toss of the coin does not influence or help us predict what will happen the next time we toss the coin. Why not? Because a die, a coin, or an RNG can’t “remember” previous outcomes, the result is that each toss, roll, or generated number is completely independent of the previous. The gambler’s fallacy would have us believe that this is not the case and that a die, coin, or RNG does indeed “remember” previous outcomes.  

A great gambler’s fallacy example is the coin toss. Say you flip a coin, and it lands on tails three times consecutively. According to the gambler’s fallacy, the fourth flip has a higher chance of landing on heads because of the three previous outcomes – as if the coin could remember them. This is not the case. A fair coin always has a 50% chance of landing on either heads or tails. Each flip is an independent event unaffected by the previous one. 

The gambler’s fallacy misjudges whether an event is linked to or independent of, previous events. But is that really all there is to it? We all know flipping a coin and rolling a die are independent events. It’s obvious, right? Then why do we always think that the next result will be affected by previous rolls and flips? Before we dive into this, let’s look at the fun origin of this fallacy. 

The Origin of the Gambler’s Fallacy

There’s a reason why the gambler’s fallacy is also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy. This takes us back to an event that took place in 1913, which many consider the origin of this fallacy. 

In a game at the Monte Carlo Casino that year, the roulette ball landed on black several times in a row. People mistakenly believed that the ball next had to land on red. So confident were they in this belief that they increasingly bet heavily on red. But it was only after 27 turns that the ball eventually landed on red. By then, many gamblers had lost millions. The same thing can happen when you play online roulette in a casino.

As tempting as it may be to think otherwise, a spin on a roulette wheel is another example of an independent event. Counterintuitive as it may seem, regardless of how many times the ball has landed on black, the odds of it next landing on red does not increase as a result!  

Technological Advancements

Over the past two decades, online casino games have been boosted by software developed to improve players’ chances of winning without having to appeal to magical thinking, such as the gambler’s fallacy. There are endless variations of online casino technology used to protect you when playing games, such as online slots. 

For players of all levels, it’s important to understand how to gamble responsibly to avoid negative life-changing scenarios. You can do this easily by setting limits, such as only gambling as much as you can afford to lose and utilizing casino technology aimed to protect you from the seductions of the online casino world.

How To Avoid the Gambler’s Fallacy

Maybe this article has highlighted how much the magical thinking or false reasoning of the gambler’s fallacy has already affected decisions you’ve made in live dealer casino games, slots, and perhaps even in other areas of your life. But now that you’re aware of this flawed way of thinking, you can make better decisions. It’s time to train your brain to avoid making decisions on the basis of this fallacy. Here are some tips to help you gamble using sound logic. 

Understand How Casino Games Work

The most effective way to combat the gambler’s fallacy is to understand how slots and casino table games actually work.  Here, it is useful to bear two things in mind: one, some games on the internet work differently from their in-person version; two, not all outcomes are independent – it all depends on the type of casino game you’re playing.

Many online gambling sites use RNGs to generate random numbers and results in their games. Even though these take the house edge into account, they are otherwise random and unaffected by previous results. This technology isn’t exclusive to online slots. It can also be used when you’re playing blackjack at a casino in person or virtual roulette games. 

Change Your Mindset

Knowing what the gambler’s fallacy is won’t be enough to change a deeply ingrained thinking habit. What may help is to keep reminding yourself to treat each event in an independent series as if it were the first. This way, you won’t raise your hopes and your wagers based on an inconsequential previous result.

Don’t Confuse Superstition With Logic

Many gambling rituals are based on superstition, and the gambler’s fallacy is no exception. Ask yourself why you think past events will affect your future and critically evaluate your reasons. 

Evaluate how you think about hot hands and cold hands or hot slots and cold slots. If they’re all using RNGs, your chances of winning are always the same across all machines. What other casino rituals and beliefs do you subscribe to which have been influenced by this fallacy? When you look at the reasons behind the belief, it will be easier to separate superstition from facts and logic.

Avoiding the gambler’s fallacy is a key part of gambling responsibly. Don’t think that if you keep playing a slot, it eventually has to pay out. Set limits to your bankroll and know when to take a break. Gambling like a pro is about more than making money. It’s also about doing your research, knowing when to stop, and taking care of your mental health as a gambler. Lastly, but most importantly, it’s betting at a secure and regulated gambling site such as BetMGM. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.