Wearing Red

Gambling Superstitions: Wearing Red

There are plenty of superstitious beliefs that exist around the world. In fact, the Chinese culture probably has more than any other. In their culture, it is thought that following these beliefs closely, will bring good luck and good fortune. While some beliefs may seem odd to an outsider, they are believed and followed by the Chinese, and gamblers from around the world. Examples of superstitions that originated with the Chinese include praying to the gambling gods to bring good luck, not touching shoulders with anyone else while you are gambling, and not talking about reading books while gambling. Another popular superstitious thought is to wash your hands if you’re having bad luck. In this article however, we will talk about one of the most popular Chinese superstitious beliefs; wearing red. Let’s look at this superstition, its possible origins and why gamblers believe it.

The Superstition

To the Chinese, red corresponds with fire and ultimately represents good fortune and joy. While red is found in plenty of places in Chinese culture, especially during the holidays, its common feature in gambling too. The Chinese believe that wearing red, especially red underwear, brings you plenty of good luck from the gambling gods. Many Chinese believe that this brings such a great amount of luck, that most gamblers make it a habit. Plus, it’s an easy superstition to act out. Whether you’re wearing a red bra, red boxers, red briefs, or a red undershirt, it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you’re wearing red under your clothes, then you’re supposed to have good luck.

Possible Origins

This superstition has been around for awhile, but it was popularized in the movie Kung Fu Mahjong. Additionally, red is a popular color in Chinese culture and has been for centuries. The color red is used commonly in every day life. They use red lanterns to adorn their residences and businesses. Double rows of red “xi” (it means happiness) letters are commonly posted on doors and gates. Red is commonly worn during weddings, celebratory evens and festivals. So it makes sense that it is considered lucky to wear red while you’re gambling.

Gamblers can be some of the most superstitious people on the planet. If they believe a superstitious act can improve their chances of winning, they will probably do it. Whether it is praying to the gambling gods, not touching shoulders with other players, or wearing a lucky pair of red underwear, if it can improve your chances at winning, people will do it.

Whether or not these practices actually work has yet to be proven, but these common practices are still done to this day. This popular belief doesn’t just have to belong to the Chinese either. If you believe that wearing red will improve your chances while you’re gambling, then why not give it a try? Everyone could use a good luck boost when they’re at the casino.

The Most Common Gambling Superstitions in the World

No good gambler would ever admit to a fellow player that they follow superstitions or have a lucky charm on them each time they approach a table or machine to try their luck; it would be poor form to admit to crediting an object or act other than skill for any win, however small. It is a fact though, that we inevitably fall into patterns around the ritual of gambling, which bring about some intriguing superstitions shared by gamblers around the world.

A recent survey by a leading internet company found that 80% of gamblers have a particular ritual, charm or superstition when it comes to their gambling habits. Most common among these are related to food, clothes or repeated gestures, including but not limited to rabbit’s feet, lucky coins, wearing red, a lucky item of clothing, eating a particular dish or enjoying a special cocktail before playing, or tapping the machine, crossing your fingers or indeed always playing with a particular hand (the choice is limited but nonetheless extremely important for superstitious gamblers).

Superstitions are not to be smirked at, and indeed the thought that you have done everything in your power to increase your chances of winning provides a reassuring sense of control over the entire act of gambling, which in itself is an unknown. In most cases luck has just as much to answer for as skill. If you feel confident and in control, you’re more likely to make rational decisions and be calm whilst aiming high. Putting aside the more personal superstitions linked to unique items or acts, here’s a countdown of some of the most popular universal gambling superstitions and how to use them to your advantage.

Blowing on dice

This is a popular sight in casino-themed films and clips, with a slow-motion swooping shot of a dashing lothario or elegant vixen blowing desire-laden air from pouted lips over the dice which are about to be flung across the table. Most people who maintain this tradition no longer do so for reasons that they can explain, other than habit, and the origins of it are hotly debated: it may date back to when craps was played on the mean streets of the big cities, and the blow would be to ensure that the dice were clean and would roll trouble free. One alternative explanation is that cheaters would coat the side they wanted it to land on with a sticky substance which would be activated by a swift blow of air on that side before rolling. Indeed in these cases, blowing really could increase your chances of winning, but now it’s more hot air than anything else.

The number 13

Before you run off and start betting on the number 13, be warned: this superstition is one of misfortune, not a bringer of luck – or at least in most cultures.  Most gamblers will try to steer clear of this number whenever they can, be it on the roulette wheel, in sizes of bets or even the date. It is well known that many regular customers will avoid the casino floor on Friday the 13th, but naysayers who don’t buy into the superstition will take advantage of the less-crowded tables and bet high, which compensates for the dip in client numbers. You can’t always avoid the number 13 though: in a typical deck of cards there are 13 values in each suit and the US flag has 13 stripes. In Italy, however, the number is lauded for its good fortune, and the idea of rejecting the number because of superstitions is almost unheard of.

The main entrance

It’s not unusual to see people entering casinos through side entrances, or avoiding a casino altogether if the entrance resembles the mouth of an animal. This is most common in China, where the world’s gambling capital of Macau is to be found, far outstripping Las Vegas in gambling turnover. It therefore beggars belief that one of the US’ major gambling companies, which now has dealings in Macau, unveiled their new Las Vegas casino in the 1990s, boasting a giant lion’s head as the entrance feature. Punters would have to walk through the gaping mouth of the beast to bet on anything, and so Chinese gamblers were greatly put off from setting foot in the building. In order to not do themselves a disservice the company renovated and got rid of the lion, allowing superstitious gamblers to return, free from fear of being brought bad luck upon entering the casino.

Penny for the fountain

There’s something ever so romantic about throwing coins into a fountain and making a secret wish for love, wealth or good health. In Las Vegas, and other gambling super-highways, fountains are set up for the very purpose of appealing to people’s superstitious side, so that before setting out for a night of adrenaline-pumping high-stakes games, visitors can throw a coin or two into the crystal abyss and hope for the best. Of course, fountains also offer pleasant aesthetic highlights, but it can’t have failed to occur to casino owners that encouraging customers to throw money in with the hope of winning would also be a nice little side-earner, with no risk of having to pay out a jackpot!

Man against the machine

Though it’s a common superstition to not change to a new table when playing poker, craps or roulette, it’s just as common to try and stick to the same slot machine but try and trick it into thinking that you’re a new player. The belief is that you’ll be treated to a new, clean set of odds, and the machine won’t realise that you’ve already emptied its coffers, or lost stacks of coins already. This can be done by using fresh slot cards, or cashing in all your winnings and starting again at regular intervals. You may also see many slot players treating the machine in rather too human a way, stroking it, talking to it, or even sometimes kissing or licking it. Like any superstition, this is more for the sake of the believer than any real impact on the game, but if it makes a gambler happier, and it doesn’t break the machine, then it can’t be too much of a bad thing.

Sleeping Number in Roulette

Roulette was a game created to prove the viability of a mathematics and physics based concept, conceived by a French genius while he resided at a monastery, which is why the wheel seems other-worldly and random. Still, people have been looking for ways to beat the wheel, to anticipate the number the ball falls on, making the random forces of gravity something that they can bend to their benefit. Of all the methods for controlling the outcome is the idea of a lucky number. But what is significant amongst gamblers than a simply playing a lucky number is the use of the sleeping number in roulette.

How Sleeping Numbers Work

The sleeping number is one that has been dormant for several spins on the wheel. Let’s say you have been watching people play for some time and noticed that eleven has not been hitting for a while. This dormancy designates eleven as a cold number and according to the common superstition there is a good chance that the number is coming up. Of course there is less of a basis for this concept in math than you might think, as the honest roulette wheel is built to be random, however, that does not stop many experienced gamblers from using this method to some degree.

How the Wheel Works

Of course, there is considerable criticism of this method of betting in the world of the professional gamblers, who are aware that the wheel has no mistress other than inertia. There is little evidence aside from anecdotal stories to make betting on sleeping numbers worth your while. After all there is little chance that you will hit all 36 numbers in say 3 hours much less within 30 minutes. Roulette is a game of luck and chance, but if you are truly looking to play the sleeping numbers, there are some established, if not proven methods for that sort of betting.

Spreading the Love

If you must attempt to bet on sleeping numbers the best way to go about it is to try and bet you money on multiple numbers at once. This technique is similar to playing multiple lucky numbers the only difference being that numbers will shift depending on which number you consider to be the sleeping number. This method will prevent you from falling into the trap of becoming too attached to one sleeping roulette number.

The Downside

Attaching yourself to a sleeping number for too long can be risky as they have been known to remain stagnant for a long period. For example in one run the number eleven failed to come up after 558 spins that are more than a person who studies the math when playing roulette would imagine happening. Commonly, you might expect the number to come up at least once within 470 spins; however this sort of assumption can obviously be costly, ultimately if you plan on betting on sleeping numbers pair that with another strategy for the best results.

Sitting on a Handkerchief

Gamblers have been prone to using handkerchiefs for good luck charms since the days of the discovery and colonization of the new world and well before the invention of roulette or poker. So it’s no surprise that the specific superstition concerning sitting on one to ensure good luck is still prevalent. This sort of good luck tip is ubiquitous along with sitting in a chair that faces the door, but it can also work out to being a pretty effective psychological tool when you are playing with other gamblers.

Seats, Handkerchiefs and Turning Luck

Turning one’s luck around will always be and has always been a concern for gamblers and the handkerchief has played a part in that for some time. Other than simply sitting on one there are several means of resetting one’s luck while gambling through the use of a handkerchief.

One method is to move your seat and, of course, your handkerchief so that the chair faces the door. This technique is said to remove any negative luck you may have accumulated and give you a fresh start. This technique can also be done by putting your back to a fireplace. This sort of maneuver has been known to be a good way of getting into your opponent’s heads as well a method for refining your luck.

Another thing you may see someone do with a handkerchief is to stand up, remove it from their seat, walk around the chair they are sitting on three times, and place the handkerchief back down. Other people will often stand up and then turn the seat around and sit on it astride, turning the chair to turn their luck.

The Handkerchief and Symbolism

Other uses for a handkerchief have been prevalent in the past, and they have has some massive effect on the luck of gamblers and warriors for example:

Handkerchiefs Knights

While Europe was facing significant turmoil in during the Middle Ages, soldiers and knights were looking to preserve their luck in any way possible. In many instances, this took the form of a knight or soldier taking handkerchief given to them by a loved one and tucking it beneath their helmet or glove when they went into battle. This sort of thing became a tradition among soldiers through the ages and as many of them were gamblers, they sought to take that luck with them from the battlefield and to the gaming table, typically laying the handkerchief down in the seat.

Handkerchiefs and Good Luck Traditions

One of the many traditions linking luck to handkerchiefs is giving one to a person as a way of saying goodbye and good luck. In the past, it was believed that keeping a handkerchief near your belongings would keep you from being robbed. In the Philippines when a person sees a shooting star, you should tie a knot in your handkerchief to ensure your good luck sticks. Attaching your luck to a charm like a talisman is a sure way to keep you positive and to stop yourself from tumbling into a loss.

Touching Your Favorite Card with Your Index Finger

There are tons of ways that people try to increase their luck when they gamble and some work better than others. People carry good luck charms, only gamble at certain casinos, and only on certain games, and others will even cut their hair before playing or wear their socks inside out. But the one method that is the simplest and if you are a poker player, potentially the riskiest is touching your favorite card with your index finger.

When You Can and When You Can’t

You could consider this the most disruptive, good luck ritual in the world of gambling. A person takes the deck, from the dealer who in this scenario is as forgiving as a saint, and proceeds to touch their favorite or lucky card with their index finger. There have even been reports of people having to cough three times before touching the card to ensure that the luck takes hold. Of course not every dealer at home or in a casino is likely to let someone do this, as it is their job to keep the cards in order, but in the past this has been the habit of many respected gamblers. For example, the gunslinger and gambler Doc Holiday was rumored to have the same tendency and was a pretty profitable and prolific gambler.


One of the reasons that this good luck ritual is sometimes frowned upon is that it could be misinterpreted by the dealer or the pit boss as marking the cards and with good reason. Marking the cards is the act of using ink or another medium to track a card in the deck so that you can determine your bet by building a favorable hand. The ritual of touching your favorite card with your index finger is a way to hide that behavior which is why it can get you in trouble at most casinos.

Other Ways to Boost Your Luck

Should you be unable actually to touch the card of your choice in the manner described there are some other methods of boosting and resetting your luck that a less conspicuous or more acceptable in a gambling setting. First if you happen to be dealing rather than looking for the card of your choice, it has been asserted that simply blowing on the deck of cards can help to stabilize one’s luck. Another method that is commonly used by people looking to reset their luck is to stand up from the seat and walk back to the table and then get back to your seat. If you find yourself needing some luck try spinning your seat around and sitting astride your seat. You may have seen the things done in poker tournaments on television or at a casino.

These methods may help you to mentally reset yourself after a losing streak and get your head back in the game. Sometimes a streak of bad luck can be in your head and take the form of a lot of bad decision and lost bets. To some people, this is what good luck means.

Whistling or Singing

When it comes to superstition, whistling and singing have a special place in people’s minds and the taboos of their cultural consciousness. There are several legends and taboos that surround the simple mindless activity of whistling and the almost mystical impact that singing has on our psyches. Gamblers as a community, are very aware of the power of luck, have a similar relationship with these two activities at the gambling table. Once you consider the historical context of these taboos and the culture surrounding gambling, you can see why it’s not a good idea to whistle while you are gambling.


Whistle at Night and in Japan


One of the oldest superstitions surrounding whistling is found in Japan, and it has been tied to the gambling traditions of the country.  According to tradition the reason that many people avoid whistling at night much, less at the table, has to do with the fact that whistling will conjure up snakes out of nowhere, there is a more figurative meaning to the superstition as the snakes that whistling would often produce at the gambling table are typically cheats. Then there is the belief that whistles conjure Tengu, crow like demons that have a knack for abduction. This superstition was also linked to the idea that people looking to liberate you from your winnings would be willing to go one step further and abduct you for the funds.


Whistling and Sailors


Some of the other big time gamblers, who were superstitious by default, were sailors.  Sailors knew that their lives were always at risk, and they would do their best to build up as much luck as possible to ensure that they would survive their next excursion across the sea. This sentiment was also reflected in the way that sailors gambled when docked. On the sea, a whistle was a way of challenging the winds of the sea and invite bad luck, consequently doing so when play cards for extra spending cash would do the same.


Singing and Bad Luck


Whistling is not the only activity that is known to invite bad luck; singing has been known to taint one’s luck as well. One example is that simply singing in the street will bring you nothing but bad luck. According to some singing before seven in the morning would only invite bad luck in by the evening. A similar superstition surrounded the act of singing at the dinner table, where if you were to sing at the dinner table before bed “evil will get you, and you’ll be dead”.


At the Gambling Table


Even the superstition of whistling at the gambling table in the western world. This whistling superstition is couched in some macabre fear about whistling when someone is walking past a graveyard. The act of crossing a graveyard with a tune on your lips will carry the same sort of bad luck over to the gambling table. This deep-seated taboo is part of why whistling at the gambling table such a faux pas.

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