By Jean Scott

I have long advocated choosing casino games that involve skill, such as blackjack and video poker, because you can study and improve your chances for winning. But the vast majority of players take comfort in the much more convenient – and much less strenuous – concept of luck. And that’s not necessarily always a bad thing; I have seen some benefits of appealing to that capricious beauty—Lady Luck.

Some players like to ask a change person to point them to a lucky machine, that is, one that will hit a jackpot soon. Now, no casino employee knows that information – but many will give you their guess. And if you take their advice and lose? Well, you now have someone to blame for your bad luck. Some people feel better when they can think of a reason, a valid one or not, why they lost.

Often players don special clothes in which to gamble. Maybe you wore a particular shirt the last time you had a big win.If you feel lucky in that shirt, what’s the harm? I have a pair of gold tennis shoes I wear when I play in home poker games. I certainly don’t believe my shoes are responsible for wins and losses. But it sometimes psyches out the other players when I tell them that my golden shoes make me unbeatable.

I occasionally see people pushing the single credit button on a slot machine two or three or five times, rather than hitting the max-coin button once. Pure superstition, of course, that this will help you win but it’s actually a good idea if you’re playing a machine with a high house edge. Anything that slows down your play will cut down on your losses and the less you lose, the “luckier” for you. The same is true of pulling a slot handle instead of pushing the spin button (if you can even find a slot machine with a handle anymore) or taking the time to change machines often.

I’ve seen players try to “control” slot machines by certain actions. They’ll get up and walk around their machine to “disturb the aura,” rub the machine to “massage” out a jackpot, peck on the glass to “wake up” the wild cards, even kiss the machine (I advise against this for reasons of hygiene). A friend of mine uses one of the funniest techniques I’ve ever come across. She “punishes” naughty machines by putting them in “time out” while she plays an adjoining one. None of this fazes the mindless machine – but it seems to relieve player tension!

I’m fascinated by all the rabbits’ feet, four-leaf clovers, trolls, pictures, tiger’s teeth, prosperity potions, and assorted talismans that decorate, for example, the tables of any bingo hall. I don’t have to wonder why everyone seems to be having a good time—it’s because there’s so much “luck in the air.”

And that’s the point. If your good-luck frog on top of a video poker machine or a picture of your grandchildren behind the coin slot makes you feel good, then it’s valuable, because that’s one of the goals of gambling – entertainment, an activity that gives you a good time. Using “lucky” charms or rituals is harmless as long as you realize they’re just something to relieve the mental stress when you’re on the losing side of a gambling session. Only when you believe that they can change the odds of a game and you depend on them for luck, instead of developing your skills, does it become a harmful thing. Did you ever notice that you don’t need them so much when you’re winning?

Jean Scott is one of the country’s most renowned and successful gamblers and has appeared on many TV shows, including 48 Hours, where Dan Rather gave her the nickname of Queen of Comps. Her first book, The Frugal Gambler, has been a best-seller for nine years. She also wrote a sequel, More Frugal Gambling, and a tax guide for gamblers. She provides a complete resource package for video poker players, from beginners to the experienced: the Frugal VP software program which goes with her new book, Frugal Video Poker, and the must-have Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide. Her Web site is www.queenofcomps.com

 

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