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Who Says Right is Right? Why the Left Hand is the Best Hand

Mar 28, 2014

left-handed-bjc-280314Left is right

Left-handed people have not always been accepted in many societies; could the reason be that they are unusually skilled at gambling?

We’ve written numerous pieces on which personality traits play better in the casino. We even did one asking whether men or women were better designed to excel as gamblers. But here’s something we haven’t done before: are right-handed or left-handed people better wired to be successful at casino strategy?

Bias alert: I am left-handed myself, and my personal bias may have affected how I wrote this article. So note that there are plenty of negatives associated with left-handedness: alcoholism, mental illness, Crohn’s disease, and shorter life expectancy. Those bad things aside, let’s get to the positive features of being part of this select club.

Lefties are better at multi-tasking

Research studies on cognitive abilities show that lefties are better at processing diverse pieces of information quickly and coherently. This is because the connection between the left and right sides of the brain are stronger, meaning that information can be transferred faster and is less likely to be forgotten or confused.

These skills are very important when playing poker. Players must be able to quickly analyze their cards and the common pile to calculate the strength of their hand and anticipate the hands of their opponents. And an effective player does all of this while reading the mannerisms of his opponents, and manipulating his own mannerisms to disguise his hand. That’s a lot to do at once! Luckily it comes easy to many left-handed people.

Left-handed men have a nose for money

Studies have found that left-handed male college graduates will earn roughly 26 percent more over their lifetimes than right-handed male college graduates. No one is quite sure why, but this can’t be a coincidence. Maybe lefties subconsciously are able to follow money, or maybe they are just prone to getting lucky. Either way, what could be more advantageous in a casino?

According to the mythology of the Zuni tribe of North America, left-handedness is associated with good luck. The Zuni did not indigenously develop casino gambling, but there is no doubt that the luck of the left is useful in games of chance like baccarat, slots and bingo. The Inca of South America and the Inuit of Canada and Alaska also believed that left-handers possess magical powers. It’s easy to imagine how magic could be useful in any casino game. I would love to put a spell on a blackjack croupier.

Lefties programmed to excel at blackjack

Members of the minority group are more likely to be mathematical geniuses. While lefties are only 10 perfect of the world’s population, they make up 20 percent of MENSA members. Notable left-handers include Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and four of the five designers of the original Mac computer.
Mathematical abilities are especially important in blackjack, where successful players use probability to determine how to behave in certain situations. It’s also important for counting cards.

While on average lefties and righties have the equal memorization skills left-handers naturally remember information visually rather than linguistically (as righties do). This means recognizing an object by its image rather than by repeating it verbally. This skill is crucial for using a card counting system. Successful counting requires the ability to recognize and mentally catalogue each new card as it is dealt. This must be done quickly, and linguistic memory techniques take time. Visual memory is much quicker, but it takes a lot of time and hard work to develop. Luckily for left-handers it comes naturally.

Hearing on a whole other level

Left-handed people have slightly better hearing than their right-handed counterparts, as they can hear equally with both ears. Righties usually hear better with one ear than the other. Which gambling activities rely on hearing? Bai Choi, a traditional variation of bingo found in Vietnam.

Bai Choi is more fun than American and British bingo because instead of calling out numbers, performers make specific sounds either by singing or playing instruments. Players cover spaces on their boards when they hear the corresponding sounds. It’s crucial that participants in Bai Choi have precise hearing skills. This is where being left-handed comes in handy.

The Left Hand is the Best Hand

Not every left-hander shows mental and physical traits useful when gambling. But we’ve demonstrated above that on average, lefties have superior mathematical, visual recognition, multi-tasking and hearing skills. These abilities are helpful in all forms of gambling, but especially poker, blackjack cards and Bai Choi. Lefties are also proven to earn more money on average throughout their lifetimes. We aren’t sure why, but several Native American tribes associate left-handedness with luck and/or magical powers. As a lefty myself, I’ll take it.


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