Occam’s Razor and Why It Explains Your Mines Games Tips Gambling Losses
Some gamblers suspect that a conspiracy is afoot whenever they lose big. They blame the casino for running rigged games or another player for cheating them.
It’s only natural to question a gambling session where it seems like the world is against you. But are you really being subjected to cheating or another phenomenon during losing streaks?
Logically speaking, your losses are attributed to odds, volatility, and/or a lack of skill. Some players refuse to believe this, though, and contend that they’re somehow the victims of unfair circumstances.
Luckily, many gambling losses can be explained just by understanding Occam’s Razor. Keep reading to find out what this principle means and how it explains gambling losses.
What Is Occam’s Razor?
In philosophy, a razor is a guiding principle that helps philosophers develop useful explanations for a certain phenomenon.
Occam’s razor (a.k.a. Ockham’s razor) is a famous problem-solving principle. It states that you should lean towards the solution with the fewest assumptions when presented with two competing ideas that explain the same thing.
Many often take this definition to mean that the simplest solution is usually right. But this isn’t necessarily the idea behind Occam’s razor. Instead, it merely suggests that answers with fewer unproven hunches usually reign true.
This razor is named after William of Ockham (1287 – 1347 A.D.), an English philosopher and theologian.
He’s not the first person to propose this idea, though, as Aristotle, Ptolemy, and others discussed a similar concept.
Ptolemy (100 – 170 A.D.) once said, “We consider it a good principle to explain the phenomena by the simplest hypothesis possible.”
The Greco-Roman mathematician and astronomer basically stated the same principle behind Occam’s Razor more than 1,100 years before William of Ockham.
However, William used the principle in much of his philosophical work and was instrumental in spreading this razor. Thus, he’s most closely associated with it.
Occam’s Razor doesn’t necessarily indicate which of two competing theories is true. Instead, it’s merely a rule of thumb used to make a decision between competing hunches.
Pros and Cons of Occam’s Razor
This razor is very effective when dealing with the tendency to add assumptions to a particular phenomenon, or the “Ad Hoc fallacy.”
The Ad Hoc fallacy refers to when a person adds un-testable answers to support their argument when countered by evidence. In other words, they add theories to defend their original answer.
Here’s an example:
- The geocentric model explained how planets move around the Earth in perfect circles
- New evidence was presented that planets don’t move in perfect orbits
- The inner planets were observed to move around the sun in a complicated pattern
- Ptolemy refined the geocentric model to explain how planets move in tiny “epicycles” during their orbit around Earth
- Later astronomers added more epicycles when it was revealed that Ptolemy’s refined geocentric model was wrong
- The heliocentric model finally showed that that planets move around the sun in ellipses
First off, it’s interesting that Ptolemy — who knew about Occam’s Razor before it was a standard — kick-started this Ad Hoc example.
He and other astronomers added epicycles (un-tested assumptions) to explain why planets were moving around Earth. Given that the planets were observed to be moving around the sun, it would’ve been more logical to scrap the geocentric model altogether.
Of course, taking the less complicated solution is always the right path. Opponents of Occam’s Razor believe that it can stifle creativity and sometimes prevent the right solution from shining through.
Author Lisa Randall wrote the following of this razor in her book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe:
“The world is more complicated than any of us would have been likely to conceive. Some particles and properties don’t seem necessary to any physical processes that matter — at least according to what we’ve deduced so far.”
“Yet they exist. Sometimes the simplest model just isn’t the correct one.”
Part of the problem with Occam’s Razor is that people misunderstand it. They wrongly assume that this principle means the simplest answer is usually correct.
Albert Einstein was a proponent of Occam’s Razor. But he also cautioned, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Even William of Ockham didn’t believe that people should blindly favor the simplest solution. He instead taught that one shouldn’t complicate a theory if a simpler explanation is possible. One merely needs to shave the excess off their solution.
Real-Life Examples of Occam’s Razor
Occam’s Razor makes an appearance in many aspects of life, from medicine to detective work.
Doctors start testing for the simplest diagnosis based on symptoms. If somebody’s big toe is hurting, they’re checking for an injury before the gout.
In order to hammer this point home, many medical students are told,
“When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.”
Homicide statistics indicate that women are usually murdered by a male partner. Therefore, police often start by questioning the husband or boyfriend before any other suspects.
If a business begins taking on bad press, they may immediately think that a rival is sabotaging them. However, the negative press could be attributed to a journalist simply taking notice of the business’ bad practices.
Common Ways That Gamblers Rationalize Losses
Now that I’ve covered Occam’s Razor, it’s time to look at how this principle specifically applies to gambling. Many gamblers refuse to accept their losses and often come up with more complex theories on the matter.
But they’re falling into the Ad Hoc fallacy as a result. Here are common and (normally) false assumptions that players make regarding their losses.
Online Casino Software Is Cheating
Some gamblers naturally have a mistrust of online casinos. After all, they can’t physically visit these sites and see how they work.
These suspicions only grow when a player loses lots of money at an internet casino. They blame their losses on the software being programmed to cheat them.
As I’ll cover later, faulty online gaming software is a possibility, but the more likely scenario is that a player is simply running into bad luck.
Most online casinos are licensed entities that abide by the rules of their jurisdiction. Gaming sites in reputable jurisdictions especially have to be careful, or else they could lose their license.
Some licensing authorities even force operators to have their games audited on a regular basis. For example, the UK Gambling Commission requires that all of its casinos and poker sites undergo auditing at least once per year.
While it remains a remote possibility that you could be cheated by a gaming site, the most common answer is that you’re just having a bad day.
Casinos Change Slots RTP When You’re Winning
Slot machines — whether physical or online — are much like online casinos in that you can’t see their inner workings. Conspiracy theories arise as a result.
One of the biggest theories is that casinos can change slots’ return to player (RTP) at will. Some people even believe that gambling establishments change RTP whenever a player is winning.
First off, casinos already maintain a sizable advantage with slot machines. Land-based gambling venues typically have between a 4% and 12% advantage with their slots. Online casinos have between a 4% and 6% edge on average.
Gambling establishments don’t need to cheat to win. Furthermore, they don’t have time to sit around monitoring each player so that they can change RTP when somebody is winning.
Occam’s Razor would suggest to blame the high house edge and fast rate of play for slots losses. Don’t cry cheating when the real evidence is much clearer.
Poker Opponents Are Colluding
Poker is a tough game to monitor in terms of cheating. It’s a player-versus-player affair, allowing crooked gamblers to collude together in some cases.
Poker cheating has happened plenty of times in many different settings. However, some players blow the cheating aspect out of proportion and think that they’re constantly being ripped off.
This game requires a great deal of skill to beat on a regular basis. Therefore, bad players are going to lose far more often on average than skilled rounders.
Nevertheless, some players refuse to let go of the Ad Hoc theories that they’re being cheated every time they lose.
Slot Machines Are Programmed to Run Hot and Cold
You may feel like slot machines run through hot and cold streaks after playing them long enough. For example, you might lose lots of rounds on a certain machine, then switch to another game and win immediately.
This type of scenario gives rise to the thought that slots run hot and cold. Gamblers who subscribe to this theory often walk around casinos looking for hot games.
The thing to realize, though, is that slots results are governed by a random number generator. The RNG cycles through millions of payout combinations during each second.
If you sit down to a game and start winning right away, it’s not because the slot machine is hot. Instead, you’re merely benefiting from a good stroke of luck.
A Sports Contest Was Fixed
Sports betting is a tough gambling activity. You can seem to have a winning bet in the bag, then lose on a last-second score.
You may become suspicious if the last second-score was the result of a terrible defensive play. This scenario leads to feelings that a match was fixed.
Many sports organizations take great measures to prevent match-fixing. After all, the integrity of their sport could be ruined if they allow games to be influenced by bettors.
Of course, match-fixing still happens in today’s sports world. Tennis is a prime example of a sport that can occasionally be fixed. But the vast majority of sporting contests run without any sort of outside interference.
How Occam’s Razor Shines Truth on Gambling Losses
Most assumptions about gaming losses are grounded in some form of truth. However, the problem is that gamblers spend too much time fixating on theories that are statistically unlikely.
Online casinos, software providers, and land-based casinos have been caught cheating players or unknowingly running faulty games. However, these incidents are few and far in between.
The entire reason why casinos offer gambling is because they can profit off their edge and other services.
Most operations don’t get greedy enough to further fix their games and dupe players.
Any casino or software provider caught doing so will probably lose their license. Furthermore, their reputation would be stained among players.
Even still, many gamblers use Ad Hoc theories to explain their losing sessions. Such theories include:
- A slot machine is running cold
- Another poker player cheated
- An online casino is running rigged software
- A new player at the blackjack table disrupted the flow of good cards
- Slot machines are programmed to pay less when people start winning
- The dealer is manipulating the deck
- A sports match was fixed
All of these assumptions could explain a losing streak. However, they’re each unlikely theories to mask what’s probably happening.
Casino games have a house edge. Poker games require skill and take rake from pots and tournaments. Sports bets also require skill and take juice from the losing side.
These solutions are the most valid regarding why one loses in gambling. They also fall under Occam’s Razor because they’re the answers with the least number of assumptions.
Sometimes Losses Really Are Attributed to Special Circumstances
Gamblers who believe that their losses come from special circumstances aren’t always paranoid.
Some players and statisticians have uncovered cheating and faulty casino software by looking deeper into the matter. Here are gambling examples of when the solution with the most assumptions was correct.
Amigotechs Video Poker Fails to Deliver Winning Hands
Earlier, I discussed how most online casino software runs without a hitch. But Amigotechs showed that this isn’t always the case. They were caught running faulty software twice.
In 2011, Michael Shackelford received a complaint from a video poker player. The gambler noted how they played 922 rounds of 50-line video poker and never once got a winning hand on the draw.
Shackelford knew that the odds of this happening are nearly impossible, so he investigated the matter. Amigotechs eventually admitted that their video poker had a software bug, which they supposedly fixed.
However, they didn’t fix all of their software bugs. In 2015, industry watchdog ThePogg got a complaint from somebody who played 560 rounds without ever receiving better than a two pair.
As Shackleford pointed out, the chances of this happening are just 1 in 18,977,313,106,520,400,000,000,000,000. Simply put, the software was again running afoul.
Amigotechs is now found at fewer and fewer online casinos, which is good considering that their games are hard to trust.
Americas Cardroom Is Infested With Bots
Poker bots are programs that are designed to play online poker. Bots have improved greatly in terms of skill and can now be profitable at lower stakes.
Most internet poker rooms do a good job of rooting out these AI programs. However, Americas Cardroom (ACR) had major difficulties in handling a bot problem from 2016 to 2018.
The site received numerous complaints about poker AI running in many of its games. ACR claimed to have a team of people monitoring and taking care of the situation.
However, many players noticed that the problem continued to persist. ACR CEO Phil Nagy finally responded again and claimed that they were taking further measures to solve the problem.
The complaints have died down recently, meaning the site may be doing a better job of handling their bot issue. However, it proves that those who felt they were facing bots the entire time weren’t operating on conspiracy theories.
Daily Fantasy Pros Clean Up
The daily fantasy sports (DFS) industry skyrocketed in popularity in the mid-2000s. One key selling point to DFS was that any average fan could hop online and start making money through the sports they love.
Of course, common sense tells us that this isn’t true. Many players began to see the truth when they continued depositing on these sites and quickly losing.
A 2015 McKinsey study backed up players’ theories when it revealed that 91% of MLB profits were going to only 1.3% of players.
The top 11 players made $135,000 in profits for every $2 million they spent on entry fees. The remaining top 1.3% earned a $2,400 profit on every $9,100 in entries — good for a 27% return.
Most of the remaining 98.7% of players were getting crushed. The illusion that anybody can beat DFS just by being a fan has disappeared in recent years.
Guy Laliberté Taken Advantage of by High-Stakes Pros
Guy Laliberté made his $1.35 billion fortune through the world-famous Cirque du Soleil. However, he surrendered an estimated $31 million of this amount to the world’s best online poker players from 2006 to 2012.
Laliberté had befriended a number of famous pros, including Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Phil Galfond, and Patrik Antonius. They often centered their high-stakes sessions around Laliberté’s participation.
He thought that he was engaging in friendly competition with elite players. Furthermore, he had more than enough money to risk against these pros when considering his 10-figure net worth.
Unfortunately for the former circus performer, he was being duped by the pros. They soft-played each other and targeted Laliberté to split up as much of his bankroll as they could.
UB Poker Scandal Cheats Players Out of an Estimated $22.1 Million
It’s common to feel like the software is rigged when online poker losses start piling up. This is normally not the case, though, because many poker sites have their software audited for fair play.
However, UB poker comprised everybody’s worst fears about the game in the early and mid-2000s. Insiders within the company were cheating high stakes players with “god mode,” which allows one to see their opponents’ hole cards.
Many players became suspicious that something was wrong when they continued losing again and again to the same screen names. Of course, they may have simply appeared delusional to others at the time.
The players themselves began investigating and trying to find answers. At one point, a UB customer support agent either accidentally or purposely emailed somebody the site’s entire database of hand histories.
The poker community analyzed this data and determined that certain screen names were experiencing impossible luck. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC), which licensed UB, was finally forced to investigate the matter after numerous complaints.
Their findings indicated that the UB cheating took place from 2004 to 2008. They stated that a UB god-mode user won an estimated $22.1 million off the high-stakes players.
1994 WSOP champion Russ Hamilton was blamed as the sole perpetrator. However, it’s widely believed that more within the company took part in the cheating scandal.
UB Poker received a $1.5 million fine from the KGC and was ordered to repay a portion of the players’ losses.
TopGame Rigs an Online Casino Contest
TopGame software once held a rigged promotion that promised a gold bar (1kg) to drawing winners at each of their 20 online casinos. A gold bar was worth $18,000 at the time.
Eyebrows were quickly raised when a single gambler known as “doodlebugger21” won the gold bar at all 20 sites. He was deemed the “world’s luckiest gambler” and given $360,000 worth of gold ($18,000 x 20).
Of course, the idea of a single person winning all 20 raffles is essentially impossible. Many speculated that this was a fake promotion by TopGame to draw more players to its casinos.
The software company has since changed its name multiple times over the years. These changes include Engage Entertainment, Celicorp Ltd., Dalberry Technologies, and TopGame Technology Dynamics.
They’re currently known as Pragmatic Play and are allegedly under new ownership. However, some believe that the same ownership could still be running the show.
Occam’s Razor is a useful principle that explains how solutions with fewer hunches are often correct. It can be very helpful to explain gambling losses in the most practical way possible.
After all, many gamblers hate to admit that they’ve succumbed to the odds or weren’t good enough to beat a skill-based game. They’d rather blame their bad luck on a more extraordinary circumstance, such as being cheated or dealing with malfunctioning software.
The reality is that 99.999% of losing sessions are due to the house edge or a lack of skill. Few casinos and software providers risk their license and reputation to rip players off. Poker collusion rings aren’t as common as the movies make them out to be.
Another thing to realize, though, is that Occam’s Razor isn’t universally correct. Sometimes the theory with more assumptions does explain a phenomenon.
Amigotechs video poker really was cheating players. Guy Laliberté was targeted by his high-stakes poker buddies. Baseball DFS pros do win the vast majority of profits. UB Poker insiders were cheating high-stakes players.
These are often the kind of Ad Hoc fallacies that players make up to feel better about losing, but in these specific cases, they were true.
From an overall perspective, though, Occam’s Razor normally applies to gambling losses. The explanation with the smallest amount of guesswork is often right.
I’m not saying that you should never be skeptical about losing nights. But don’t obsess over a losing streak and think that the casino or other players are out to get you.