The roulette wheel was accidentally invented in the 18th century by the French mathematician, philosopher and Catholic theologian, Blaise Pascal. What he was actually trying to do was build a perpetual motion machine. And while roulette is a pretty cool thing to have invented, this wasn’t even his greatest contribution to society.
Pascal corresponded with another Frenchman Pierre de Fermat on hypothetical gambling problems. This correspondence led to the development of Probability Theory, which, for the first time, allowed people to rationally predict outcomes and is the basis of so many of today’s scientific disciplines.
According to Probability theory, every time the roulette wheel rolls, each number has an equal chance of winning. So it does seem slightly ironic then that the game attracts so many players who are willing to risk their bankrolls on a random number just because it feels lucky or because it hasn’t hit in a while, a logical fallacy that probably has poor Pascal spinning in his grave.
So the question we’ll try to answer today is “Are there really any lucky numbers in roulette and if so, what are they?”
The number that is most commonly thought of as lucky in connection with roulette is 17, and it certainly has produced some spectacular wins. For example, in 2008, Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley won a staggering £1.3 million on 17. And in the 1960s Sean Connery, everybody’s favorite Bond, bet on 17 five spins in a row, and won on three of them, walking away with over 10 grand. Not an amount to be sneezed at today, but worth a whole lot more way back in the 60s of the last century.
But does this mean that 17 is really a lucky roulette number? According to croupiers, 17 is the most commonly bet on number in the game. This is partly because it is situated right in the middle of the board, making it the first choice for people who are betting “randomly”.
The other reason is that humans seem to have an affinity for it. Ask any group of people to choose a number from 1 to 20 at random, and 17 will be the most common answer. The point is that if a number is bet on more often than others, it will also win more often than others. This goes some way to explaining the amount of success stories involving 17 that you’ll hear around the tables. But what about the two big wins we just mentioned?
It is certainly Mike Ashley’s favorite number, he even wears football jerseys with it. So we can be positive Mike Ashley’s big win wasn’t the first time he put money on it. And as for the size of the win, the guy is a billionaire so for sure he wasn’t betting peanuts.
Sean Connery’s incredible winning streak isn’t so easily explained away. Winning three times in a row on the same number could be a coincidence. This theory is made more likely because he actually bet on it 5 times in a row, losing the first two spins. Or is there more to it than that?
17 was a sacred number to the Celts. Maybe Connery, who’s from Scotland, a Celtic land, tapped into some ancient magic to ensure his win. Or maybe his old colleague Q came up with some nifty spy device to control the rotations of the wheel. I guess we’ll just never know.
As we said, 17 has a particularly strong association with roulette. But there are plenty of other lucky numbers out there. The most widespread are;
Of course, many people have their own personal “lucky number” or combination of numbers, such as a date of birth. And Numerologists will tell you that they can divine your own personal one based on the number of characters in your name divided by the number of times you shower a day or something like that.
But we would like to round up with our favorite, Thirteen. Most people believe this is an unlucky number. This belief dates back to the Middle Ages. A year with thirteen full moon’s was a great inconvenience for the monks charged with organizing observations of religious festivals as it threw out their calculations. Hence, 13 became unlucky because it was a nuisance.
But go further back in time and we find that 13 was associated with the unusual and unexpected and could signal a great change in fortunes. So next time you’re trying to break a losing streak on roulette, give 13 a whirl. You never know, it might just change your luck! And if it doesn’t, maybe you should walk away from the table.
These, then, are the numbers commonly associated with luck in Roulette. But that doesn’t answer the central question; Are they really lucky? The rational answer is; No, they aren’t, lucky numbers don’t exist. But rationality doesn’t have an explanation for everything in this world of ours.
Just remember though, that the best way to make sure you always come out ahead when playing roulette, or any other game for that matter, is never bet more than you can afford, and always quit while you are ahead.