The Gambler’s Fallacy

  • The Gambler's Fallacy or Monte Carly Fallacy Exists Since Gambling Does
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The gambler's fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy, simply put, is the belief that past events can somehow have an influence on future ones, that are absolutely different from them in reality. An example for the gambler is if a coin landed on its heads twice in a row, then it should land on its tails for the third toss. Some people believe that if a certain event already occurred a certain number of times, then this same event will happen less in the future. Others hold the converse belief, that the same event will occur more frequently in the future. They are all nuts!

Introduction: The Gambler’s Fallacy

As for gamblers, let’s consider its effects with a simple demonstration. Let’s suppose we just roll a pair of dice, and they both land on a 6. Whooo! Now the odds of this happening are 1/36. Because the odds of landing one dice on a 6 is 1/6. So a gambler whose thinking is stuck in the gambler’s fallacy rut is going to assume that the odds of landing another double 6 are going to be lower than 1/36. But, as Eminem raps in Lose Yourself, “Snap back to reality, ope there goes gravity,” each roll of the dice is a separate event. So there is no way that the last roll can affect the next. In reality, the odds remain the same, 1/36. And it really doesn’t matter how many times you roll the dice, the odds are exactly the same each time. Cum’on…it’s not hard to figure it out.

Cognitive Bias

So we can see from this, that the gambler’s fallacy is based on an irrational thought process. In psychology, this is what’s referred to as a “cognitive bias” because it represents an irrational belief. You can see this in lottery predictions, whereby people think that because a number has already won, it will not be drawn again in an upcoming draw. Online casino news in the UK are full of people thinking this way. There are many people who fall into this trap when it comes to thinking through things that should be logical. A classic example is childbirth. Many peeps believe that because you already have a certain number of one gender, then you’re somehow “due” the opposite. Yes, it’s probably better if people like that don’t breed, but we can’t have everything. Funnily enough, the gambler’s fallacy affects all walks of life. And this is in spite of the fact that many are actually aware of the error in their thought process.

The Monte Carlo Fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy is sometimes called the “maturity of chances” or the “Monte Carlo Fallacy”. This latter name comes from a game of roulette that took place in a Monte Carlo casino in 1913. During this game, the ball fell into the black a staggering 26 times in a row. Apparently, millions of francs were lost as gamblers kept on placing their bets on red. To them, after so many blacks, the ball was “due” to land on the red.

File:Monte Carlo Casino north facade on the Place du Casino - Jean Gilletta - Leniaud 2003 p79.jpg
Old Picture of he Monte Carlo Casino – Image source: Jean Gilletta via Wikimedia Commons

The Gambler’s Fallacy: Representative Heuristics

Essentially the gambler’s fallacy happens because of the imperfect way that our cognitive system processes new information. There’s something called representative heuristics, which is the tendency to assume a short sequence or random outcomes will be the same or similar to a long sequence. Then there’s the “law of small numbers”. This is the idea than a very small sample can be representative of the whole population from which they are drawn. It also forms the false but understandable idea, that things will somehow “even out” in the end. This comes partly from false belief. or maybe wishful thinking, that “chance” will somehow be fair and self-correcting. This would be the same assumption that the ratio of heads to tails in a coin toss, should be 1:1.

Look At The Big Picture

Of course, this can only make sense over a large enough amount of tosses. Pop over to Unibet Casino and you’ll see that the larger the number of actions, the more even will be the results. But that doesn’t mean that there cannot be variations across smaller amounts. If we were to examine shorter sequences, then this would quickly become apparent. If we were to split those 100 coin tosses into smaller amounts of, say 5 tosses each, then we may even find examples whereby the coin landed on heads, five times in a row. Most people experience gambler’s fallacy simply because they fail to understand the basic principle that small samples are just that. They are not representative of a larger sample. Anyway, how can we correct this way of thinking?

The Gambler’s Fallacy: Cure Yourself

The gambler's fallacy
All the losing streaks have an end – Image source: evilestmark via Wikimedia Commons

Well, the first point is to recognize when we are using this means of thinking. When you’re playing online casino sites in the UK, you need to constantly analyze to see if you are in fact using the outcomes of prior events to predict future ones. Funnily enough, research shows that knowing you’re thinking in the mindset of the gambler’s fallacy, is still not enough to stop yourself from doing it. It’s that deep seated. So the only way to really neutralize this thought process is to deliberately emphasize the opposite. In other words, make yourself more aware of the independence of outcomes. Deliberately make your first question about the possibility of a previous outcome affecting the next one. Be active in your thought process.

The Gambler’s Fallacy: Be Objective

A basic example. Let’s go back to that pair of dice we previously rolled. remember that they landed on a double 6. So what are the odds of that happening again? Let’s think it through logically: first off, the dice does not have a memory, it cannot recall the previous rolls. secondly, the dice cannot influence any future rolls. It’s just a dumb dice. Finally, try and ask yourself what on earth you’re thinking whenever you find yourself falling into the gambler’s fallacy. Think about how you might answer and explain your thought process to someone else. That way you’re able to stand apart from yourself and look at things more objectively. If you can’t think of a proper example to counter your set ways, then always bring up the roll of a dice or the toss of a coin. Use these examples as a jumping base in order to be able to explain more complex gambler’s fallacies to others. Now head over to Unibet Casino and try out your new-found knowledge.

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