Chinese Gambling Superstitions and Taboos

Chinese Gambling Superstitions and Taboos

Chinese are a superstitious group of people. Some Chinese gambling superstition thinking and behavior have become essential parts of the Chinese culture and are popularly accepted by the population. Chineses obsession and beliefs in superstitions are commonly portrayed in their movies. In a scene in Kung Fu Mahjong, for example, one actor claimed that he was wearing his red underwear and, hence, ready to go to Macau (casinos). A scene right after that showed him, his friend and those around the gaming table shouting Deng (in Cantonese) before he revealed his card in a baccarat game. In Fat Choi Spirit, a gangster who had arranged to play mahjong with a renowned mahjong expert put on his red underwear, ordered his men to touch the shoulders of his opponent and to put bags of books around him. Some industry observers and researchers postulate that Chinese have strong illusion of control. A strong belief in superstition may have aggravated some Chinese gamblers illusion of control during gambling.

Chinese believe that picking the right numbers can affect ones fortune. Some Chinese gamblers deliberately avoid hotel room numbers like 4 (sounds similar to die in Cantonese) and 58 (sounds similar to wont prosper in Cantonese) and select auspicious hotel room numbers like 84 (sounds similar to prosperous till death in Cantonese) or 18 (sounds similar to definitely prosper in Cantonese). To a Chinese, 8 is associated with prosperity and 4 is associated with death. Numbers such as 3, 6 and 9 are also considered good numbers that, when combined appropriately with 8 or other numbers, can contribute to a Chineses chances of winning when gambling. A combination of good numbers include 1388 (sounds similar to prosperity in ones lifetime in Cantonese), 168 (sounds similar to prosper all the way in Cantonese) and 998 (sounds similar to prosper for a long time in Cantonese). However, picking the wrong number or combination of numbers can potentially be disastrous. For example, a Chinese gambler who boarded a shuttle bus to a casino in Macau noticed later that the bus license plate was MF 1358 (sounds similar to wont prosper in ones lifetime in Cantonese). Thinking that he should not be overly superstitious, he ignored it but kept it at the back of his mind. However, when he lost that night, he put the blame on the shuttle bus with lousy numbers as the main cause of his misfortune.

Superstitious Chinese gamblers may sometimes perform rituals to get loads of blessings for luck and prosperity from their gods. Such acts may include offering fruits, lighting up a joss stick or simply making a prayer. They would do so at the start of the Lunar New Year or when it is needed such as before a major casino trip or publication of lottery draw numbers.

Many Chinese also believe in feng shui. They believe the world that they are living in are full of chi or force (positive or negative), which can be manipulated to their advantage. While some Chinese worship feng shui as a rational science, others see it as pure superstition. Still, most people accept it as part of the Chinese culture. Some Chinese use feng shui (e.g. arranging ones furniture at home) to avoid bad fortune (i.e. keep away negative chi or force) and increase the amount of fortune they get (i.e. bring in positive chi or force). Superstitious Chinese gamblers may sometimes avoid entering a Chinese casino through its main entrance as they believed it is blessed (or cursed) by the feng shui geomancers.

Below is a list outlining just some of Chinese gambling superstitions and taboos. While many young Chinese today may no longer believe in these dos and donts, they are still being recognized and/or practiced by many.

Chinese Gambling Donts
· Dont tell others that you have to read books when they are gambling. In Chinese, book sounds similar to lose.
· Dont count the money that you gain or loss during gambling.
· Avoid seeing nuns or monks before gambling.
· Dont hit or touch ones shoulder(s) while he or she is gambling.
· For males, stay far away from sex (or females) before gambling.
· Dont enter a casino via its main entrance. It is cursed by the feng shui masters.
· Dont try to be a winner at the very beginning, or you will lose a lot of money in the end.
· Dont check into hotel rooms with inauspicious numbers like 4 and 14.

Chinese Gambling Dos
· Wear red underwear or undergarment when gambling.
· Go and piss. It can bring some good luck if you have been losing money.
· Females are more likely to win when they are having their period.
· Switch on all the lights at home before you go out to gamble.
· Check into hotel rooms with auspicious numbers like 8, 18, 13, 168, 198, and 798.
· Behind every gaming table is a baby ghost. Feed the ghost (i.e. with sugar) and the ghost can help you to win or will not stop you from winning.
· When playing baccarat, players should call out the word Deng (Cantonese) or Ding (Mandarin) prior to opening the card(s).
· Pray and/or make an offering to the god(s) before you go for your major casino trip.
· Pray to the god(s) before the day of lottery draw.
· Pray and/or make offerings to the god(s) when you strike lotteries.
· The winning lottery numbers are out there in the world around you for you to interpret and guess before the actual draw day. For example, your coming wedding date (e.g. 12/11/05) could possibly be the winning lottery numbers for the next draw.

Date Posted: 30-Nov-2005

* DESMOND LAM is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Macau, China. Desmonds interests lie in gaming, cross-cultural decision-making process, and the role of word-of-mouth in customer and brand loyalty. He can be contacted at DesmondL@umac.mo.

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