How the Gambler’s Fallacy influences Winning Streaks

If you’re reading up on gambling and casino game strategies one of the first things most pros will warn you about is the Gambler’s Fallacy and why you should not believe in it. If you’re not familiar with the term “Gambler’s Fallacy” this refers to a probability theory that is based on the belief that future bets are either more or less likely to be winners based on past results.

The reality of the matter however is that every bet made at a casino is independent of the last one, no matter what game you play – but try telling this to players who believe that previous outcomes affect future ones and tailor their wagers accordingly!

In addition, a new scientific study published in Cognition has made a shocking discovery that hot or winning streaks may indeed be a real and are not always the result of positive variance. But before you run out in the hope of hitting a winning streak, let’s look at the “hot hand fallacy” identified in the study and what it’s all really about.

It is worth mentioning that scientists were studying gamblers who were aware of the Gambler’s Fallacy and the attempt to avoid playing according to this, actually led them to experience an entirely opposite effect which was termed the Hot Hand Fallacy.

In compiling their data, researchers examined data from 65,915 sports bets placed by 776 online punters from both Europe and America. On average, the players won 48% of their sports bets but in an attempt to avoid the gamblers fallacy, adjusted their behaviour and as soon as they hit a “hot hand” streak, the figures rose as follows:

  • A single win increased their chance of winning to 49%
  • Two consecutive wins led to a 57% increase in their chance of winning
  • Three streak wins led to a 67% chance of winning a future bet
  • A four streak win led to a 72% increase in their chance of winning
  • Five wins in a row upped the chance of winning to 75%
  • And 6 consecutive wins increased chances to 76%

From this data, researchers concluded that belief in the gamblers fallacy and the associated adjustment of their behaviour meant that they altered their bets significantly, making smarter bets with better odds which meant that they improved their chances of winning with every bet they made. Even though this meant that they didn’t win higher profits than the average player, they did win more frequently.

Interestingly, the converse side of the Gambler’s Fallacy also made its appearance in the study with players on a losing streak betting with the belief that they were “due” a win and adjusting their bets accordingly with increasingly risky bets. This is how that downward spiral played out:

  • A single loss led to a 47% chance to win in the next bet
  • Two consecutive losses decreased winning chances to 40%
  • Three losses led to a diminished 32% chance of winning in subsequent bets
  • Four losses held a mere 27% chance of winning
  • Five loss streaks reduced chances of winning to 25%
  • And 6 consecutive losses led to winning chances of just 23%

This proves that the Gambler’s Fallacy does have an effect on sports bettors and most likely casino players alike, especially those that play casino games like Roulette or Craps where a wide selection of bets are available to the players. The effect however is psychologically rather than statistically based as no one is ever “due” a win or a loss but believing in this will definitely alter your betting behaviour. This means that streaks are more attributed to better gambling choices rather than any form of luck or deserving.

The fact that most sports bettors and casino player win more often when on a hot streak is very interesting but it does show that even if you are on a “hot streak” you won’t necessarily earn more than other players so ultimately nothing replaces studying and applying sound casino games strategy for the games you play.