Gambling has been around since the dawn of man. Despite it being seen as a vice in our modern day society, it is perhaps one of the most human attributes alongside our instinct for survival and ability to advance over other animals. We, as a complex species, get bored very easily. In fact, gambling has been around for so long it’s little wonder why many cultures have their own philosophies on the subject.
Some of the most commonly-spouted phrases are proverbs that communicate great wisdom on the nature of luck and restraint. We gave gathered some of the best quotes about gambling and luck from across the globe and have compiled them into one list. But the best thing about these quotes isn’t that they just give good gambling advice. They also portray some insight into how one should live their life.
The Chinese have always worshiped luck as though it were a kind of force or spirit. In fact, they are so superstitious they construct buildings on a certain angle to avoid bad luck. And red is a lucky colour which is probably why it’s on their nation’s flag (it’s also to do with the revolution and Communism but we won’t go into that here).
They, of all people, know how best to gamble. This likely ancient proverb speaks of how wise the gambler can be if he knows when to stop but also must know the rules of the game as well as how good the stakes are. Basically: don’t gamble if you are ignorant about what you’re gambling with.
So luck isn’t a purely coincidental thing. It moves more in your favour when all the components are on your side. This doesn’t guarantee that you will win but it certainly increases the likelihood of winning. Our favourite but of wisdom here is “if you don’t know how to play, then don’t”. It’s really that simple.
Okay, so not quite a proverb exactly but this pocket of wisdom is timeless. The first part of the phrase “quit while you’re ahead” can be applied to a lot of situations other than gambling. It is the most concise warning of restraint in the West and was first used by a Spanish philosopher.
Novelist as well as a Jesuit back in the 17th century, Gracián is most famous for his allegorical novel Criticón which gathered fame across Europe (especially in German speaking countries) due to its philosophical overtones and Byzantine style. For those who are unfamiliar, Byzantine basically means revival of Greek or Roman ideals of romance only now it has a Christian edge to it.
So what made him qualified to talk about gambling? Well he was often a disobedient guy and published his novel in three parts in spite of the religious society which he was a part of. That probably meant he liked to gamble secretly too but we’re not sure. Either way, it’s a great quote!
Although not precisely a culture, Yiddish is the language of the Ashkenazic Jews. The language has formed a culture because it has been used throughout their history in literature, theatre and music. It has also formed some very wise proverbs, one of which is these.
But why is an ounce of luck better than a pound of gold? Well, think about it. Would you rather have a lot of gold but be plagued with bad luck which causes you to lose it all? Or would you rather have a small amount of good luck and potentially gain? I’d say that the latter is preferable.
It could also be interpreted as the Yiddish people saying that fortune in your exploits throughout life is better than any material wealth can offer. But that’s speculative and really up to the individual.
This one also technically isn’t a proverb (it’s a direct quote) but its universal truth is unquestionable. Another saying which can be applied to most aspects of life as well as gambling, the implication that you always “play it safe” will always result in you winning nothing. Basically, don’t be boring. Take a risk. Have fun. Go outside your comfort zone and relish in it.
This quote comes from the lips of Wayne Gretzky, former Canadian professional hockey player and head coach who has to know a thing or two about winning and losing. It may not be directly related to gambling but risk is a huge part of any game, hockey included. If you fail to take risks then you won’t win anything. You may not lose anything but the fear or losing should only restrain you when you have made your substantial win, never before.
Finally, we turn to the Irish for their wisdom. A similar idea to Gracián’s quote, this equivalent again advises you on how to restrain yourself. If you have already lost then try not to recuperate what you have lost because that’s a sure fast way to lose more. Only fools would allow that to happen.
While it’s debatable if the Luck of the Irish really does exist, it’s undeniable that this proverb makes for a good rule to live by. Don’t go chasing after a fleeting whimsy otherwise you may come off worse.