Hang around with old-timer gamblers for long enough, and you’ll inevitably hear stories about how dealers affected the outcome of a game, either positively or negatively.
While it’s tempting to dismiss these stories as the delusions of superstitious gamblers who are trying to justify losing to pure mathematics and probability, it’s important to pause and think about it before leaping to conclusions. Could there be something about casino dealers which affects how you play, at the very least, and therefore affects the outcome?
After doing some digging, I believe there might be something to these tales. In this piece, I’m going to outline three ways I believe the dealer can, in fact, impact the outcome of a casino card or table game. I’ll finish up with my ‘ultimate verdict’ at the end.
Some Ways Gamblers Believe Dealers Can Impact Outcomes
After hearing many such stories and reading even more of them on gambler’s forums online, I identified the most common observations players have about dealers:
- Dealers can be either lucky or unlucky.
- Dealers can be dishonest and are rigging the games.
- A change in dealers can interrupt a lucky streak or run.
- Dealers burning cards or changing decks can affect gameplay and streaks.
I’m not sure what to make of these assertions at face value since I’m not a superstitious person by nature. I like to look for the logical, rational explanation for things, and so I’ve come up with some ideas which might explain these reported phenomena logically, but which still leave open the possibility that dealers are, in fact, affecting outcomes.
Logical Ways Dealers Do Matter and Can Affect Games
(1) A Dealer’s Behavior Can Affect Attention/Focus
Have you ever met someone and immediately taken a dislike to them? How about feeling warm and friendly toward someone for no apparent reason? We can all relate to this social reality, and it applies in casinos just as much as anywhere else.
If there’s something about a dealer you just don’t like, such as their appearance, the way they shuffle cards, their mannerisms, or something else entirely, it’s likely to affect the way you play. If you’re suspicious of a dealer, that’s even worse, since you’ll have one eye on the dealer and one eye on the game.
This might not matter so much when it comes to games of pure chance like Roulette, but it matters in skill-based games like Blackjack where concentration and focus are required.
In this way, I believe the dealer can matter – big time! If you have a bad vibe from a particular dealer or have an inexplicable dislike or suspicion of them, it’s time to switch tables.
(2) The Law of Attraction Could Be At Play
I know, I know, I said I was going to come up with logical reasons to explain how dealers might affect things.
While the law of attraction can’t be proven scientifically, lots of people swear by it. Just think of it this way – if you feel good and think positive thoughts, through sheer cause and effect good things are more likely to happen. It works in a chain like this: thoughts-feelings-actions-outcomes.
In this subtle sense, I think the belief that a dealer is either lucky or unlucky could affect the outcome of some games, but not all.
Since games of pure chance are determined by exactly that, I doubt the dealer has much of an impact on those.
However, skill-based games such as Poker variants and Blackjack are a different matter. The sheer belief that a dealer is unlucky will put you in a negative frame of mind, and thus you will experience negative emotions, which will affect the actions you take, which have an impact on the outcomes of games.
Whether or not the dealer is actually lucky or unlucky, your belief about that could impact the game in ways you can’t even detect.
Again, if you feel the dealer is unlucky, get out of there and find another table.
(3) Heuristics Can Affect How You Play
Heuristics are a term borrowed from computer science, but in recent times it has begun to be used to describe human beliefs. The simplest explanation is that we all have ‘base’ beliefs and ‘rules of thumb’ that we refer to since we don’t have time to think things through logically, especially when in time-bound situations.
For example, you might hold the belief that ‘When a dealer burns cards it will change my luck’.
This belief has likely formed because of your own personal experience, or because someone you trust and who has authority in your mind planted that belief there.
Whether or not these heuristics are true doesn’t matter – they affect how we behave and are often subconscious.
It’s perfectly possible to see how a dealer burning cards causes you to believe that your luck will change, which in turn causes you to play differently, perhaps in a more guarded, conservative, risk-averse fashion.
Try to become aware of which beliefs you hold, and trust them. The act of just believing them is enough to affect how you behave, and thus the outcome of a game, so if a dealer does burns cards, switches decks, or switches with another dealer, you can decide to leave there and then.
This isn’t exactly the dealer affecting the game, but their behavior affecting yours. It still matters, though, particularly in skill-based games.
Ultimate Verdict – Does the Dealer Matter?
After having looked at these superstitions from the perspective of how they affect a player’s behavior, I do believe that the dealer matters, although it’s got nothing to do with superstition and luck, and everything to do with the way events affect our behavior.
While I don’t believe that there’s any supernatural force at work, I believe that, for the above reasons, what a dealer does, how he or she acts, or just vibe you get from them, can impact the outcome of certain games.
So, in conclusion, yes – the dealer does matter in certain games! Gamblers may not be able to explain why, but when they claim the dealer wrecked the game or made it, they’re onto something.