Myths, Misconceptions and the Psychology of Gambling

10th February6 min read

Today Android Slots takes on the daunting task of debunking a few of the larger myths that surround the mysterious world of slots. Always keen to get into the stats and facts, we delve into how to recognise the patterns that online slots fall into, in order to help you avoid misinterpreting the signs. Hold on tight, we're going in!

Myth 1: I've been on a losing streak so I'm due a big win

This misconception is one of the biggest reasons that problem gambling exists, and is an idea that is best avoided, although that's easier said than done! Studies on lab mice have shown that if a lever gives a mouse no reward, it will try it a few times and then never touch it again. However, if a lever is randomised, giving a reward on the first pull and an electric shock on the second, then the mouse will become intrigued. It will keep pulling the lever even if the rate of reward drops massively, and as long as it gets a reward every so often, it will electrocute itself to the point of death before giving up! It's not hard to find the analogy here, and while casual gamblers may read this in shock, we've all been guilty of having a few spins too many, even if our restraint is good enough to stop it becoming a big problem. The idea that there's a big win in store is the reason we keep playing, but as you'll have read enough times to know, each spin is unique - the big win is just as unlikely as it always is.

Myth 2: I'm different from other gamblers

In the same way that our brains don't differ so massively from those of mice, they differ even less from humans'. While it's easy to look at problem gamblers and media-glamorised horror-stories and convince ourselves that we know better, the majority of gamblers aren't problem gamblers, they're just like me and you. However, the casinos still make money off us, and it's potentially this feeling of being 'special' that causes it. Despite advertised rates and the widely-known mantra of 'the house always wins,' we still think we might be able to get one up on the casinos. This is a nice idea to have, and as long as it remains just a fun idea, it's harmless. It becomes an issue when we invest in this idea past the point of just having fun. Statistically, you lose on mobile slots. We're willing to accept this because we're happy to spend our money on having fun. However, we'd all agree that past a certain point, if we bet twice as much, while we might get more excited, we don't get twice as excited - economists call this the law of diminishing returns.  It is this principle that sees people getting addicted to, say, cigarettes. As the pleasure decreases from having one, they start having two, and the cycle continues until it becomes a full-blown addiction. With slots, however, there is a happy medium at which your financial investment is proportional to your enjoyment, and there are no ill effects. This is the golden zone of enjoyment that you have to keep your mind on while playing, to keep your hobby from becoming a habit.

Myth 3: Slots have hot and cold cycles

This is a toughy, and probably the hardest 'myth' on the list to debunk. Being a surprisingly science-minded English Lit graduate, I decided to do a small experiment to display the patterns that Random Number Generators can fall into, while still remaining random. To do this, I tossed a coin 100 times, and conveniently I got 50 heads and 50 tails - unfortunately the coin never landed on its side, that's a jackpot! I'm aware that 100 is a relatively small sample size, but it doesn't take much to demonstrate my point. I defined achieving a 'streak' as getting 5 heads or tails in a row, a 1/32 chance. I got 5 streaks in 100 spins, meaning that around 25% of my spins were part of a 'streak.' If you consider heads a 'win' and tails a 'lose', you'd have had 3 losing streaks and 2 winning streaks in just 100 flips. It's not hard to see, with such a large proportion of a completely fair set of coin-flips falling under the 'streak' banner, why people think that hot and cold cycles are built into a machine - surely that can't be random? I hope my little experiment has helped prove to you that even the most random system will fall into 'streaks' - you can even try it out yourself! What this means for you, however, is that you can only define a streak in hindsight; every spin (or flip) is just as random as the last, so don't go throwing all your money in at once under the illusion that the machine is in a good mood. It is always good to know when to sensibly cash out your winnings. See what my fellow colleagues have to say in this regard.

Myth 4: Someone winning the jackpot will make the slots go cold

True, but not in the way that you're thinking! A jackpot occurring won't make a machine go colder, but if a machine has a high jackpot then its day-to-day play will be slightly colder than the advertised Return to Player (RTP). This is because this figure has to take into account that somebody will eventually win the jackpot, and ideally when they do the machine will have rounded to its average RTP. However, by the very nature of jackpots, they don't come along often! This means that on a day-to-day basis, the payout percentage will be lower than advertised, and unless you win the jackpot, it'll stay that way. This only really applies in any significant way to very large jackpots though, and is why we discourage too much play on progressive jackpot slots! However, in terms of debunking the myth that a jackpot will make the machines go colder, I return to what I've just described about each spin being unique. It's technically possible to win a jackpot twice in a row even, it's just phenomenally unlikely!

Myth 5: My favourite game pays out most

While you might not need to have won the jackpot to maintain this thought, you winning will probably have something to do with a certain game being your favourite. If you try a fantastic new HD game with 3D graphics and all the bells and whistles, you're still going to leave with a sour taste in your mouth if it doesn't pay out. Your favourite game will be likely a combination of a good game, ease of play, and having got lucky a few times when you first started to play. Not to dispel the special attachment you may have to any particular game, but our brains are simple things, and I'd hate to see you pour all your hard-earned cash into a game over some perceived familiarity, because that's exactly what the casinos engineer the games to do!

Myth 6: I've had a few near misses - I'll have to win soon!

With all the mentions of statistics and unique spins in this article so far, you'd think that this one would explain itself. However, statistics are fiddled somewhat when it comes to near misses, and casinos are actually allowed to display more near misses than is statistically likely, just to keep you playing! Indeed on some American slots, the makers are allowed to display a near miss up to twelve times more than is likely! It hardly takes much in-depth psychology to describe how this keeps people playing... but I looked into it anyway! Whether you're more into reading or watching, I've found something that you might be interested in, i.e. a video on The Near Miss Mindset of Pathological Gamblers

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped to dispel some of the wacky theories that can be found around mobile slots, and will help you to enjoy playing responsibly. While casinos' Return to Player will keep you at a fairly consistent 85-95% return, it's important to keep yourself informed about the psychological forces at play in a gambling environment. At Android Slots we are committed to keeping our readers safe and happy, so check out our news section for more info on these matters.

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