Source: The Mercury, 12 March, 1998, p.19

Friday the 13th - It's a fortune

Come on all you wooses, don't go cowering under the blankets tomorrow. After all, it's just another day ... isn't it? DOUG CONWAY in Sydney mulls over your chances for Black Friday

WHAT will the world's 
keenest gamblers do 
this Black Friday in 
what's supposed to be 
the unluckiest of 
Defy the odds and have a betting 
splurge, probably. 
Australian lottery ticket sales 
often go through the roof on Friday 
the 13th, which falls tomorrow- 
for the second consecutive month- 
in what will be a 1998 triple. 
Australian cricketers tradition- 
ally suffer an inverted form of 
"triskaidekaphobia"-their hoodoo 
number is 87 - 13 short of 100. 
But punters are affflicted by no 
such folly, especially the many of 
Chinese origin for whom the num- 
ber 13 is actually considered lucky. 
Australians wager more than 
$3300 each year for every man, 
woman and child, three times more 
than any other nation, and Friday 
the 13th is one of the big business 
"People try to beat the bad luck 
jinx by taking it on," said Lee 
Webster, of NSW Lotteries, where 
sales sometimes increase more than 
50%. On Black Friday in 1990 for 
example, more than four full lot- 
terles sold out in 10 hours. 
Thirteen is lucky for some. Like 
the 48-year-old man from Helens- 
burgh, on the NSW south coast, who 
on Friday, September 13, 1996, won 
the then highest-ever $2 Jackpot 
Lottery prize of $5.6 million. 
The $1 million first prize in the 
state's Lucky 7 Lottery went off in 
the 13th week and again following a 
13-week break. 
Luck, like lightning, can strike 
twice or even three times for some 
people: Patricia, a woman in her 60s 
from western Sydney, won $1.1 
million on NSW Lotto in January. 
Her sister and mother won $2.5 
million in Victoria's Tattslotto in 
Ballarat six years ago. Six years 
before that her uncle in Warrnam- 
bool won around $500,000. 
"On the Friday before [her Lotto 
fortune] I won $130 on the pokies at 
the RSL on machine 
number 113," Patricia 
said. "The previous 
Monday I won $13 on 
Lotto. I was never 
superstitious of the 
number 13." 
A Taree pensioner 
won $25,000 in Lotto Strike two 
years ago, then $500,000 in Lotto 
last year. 
A Lithgow prison officer who won 
$373,000 in Lotto last year was just 
capping off the good fortune enjoyed 
by his brother who won $333,000 
six months earlier. 
An eight-member health centre~ 
syndicate from Wollongong won 
$100,000 lottery prizes twice in two 
years. The chances of that, as- 
suming they had a ticket in all 300 
draws in that time, are around one 
in 54 million. 
Some people are just plain lucky, 
says Sydney casino spokesman Pe- 
ter Grimshaw. 
"There are regulars who have a 
winning edge over us over a long 
period," he said. "By all tests of 
mathematics and statistics they 
should be behind but they are ahead n 
because they are luckier thah 
"They have to be good players, too. 
If they're playing blackjack, for 
example, they have to know when to 
sit and when to take a card. They 
have to know their business." 
Of the casino's 10,000 registered 
"high rollers", he estimates "several 
hundred" are ahead of the house. 
"We believe overall that statistics 
are the key. But no doubt there's 
Superstitions abound among the 
Asians who make up 50% to 60% of 
the casino's customers. 
They will ignore the comfortable 
seats around an empty baccarat 
table, for example, to stand four and 
five deep around another identical 
table because the second table "is 
perceived as being lucky at the 
But the Chinese have no aversion 
to the number 13 because its literal 
meaning is "alive", explains King 
Fong, chairman of Sydney's Chinese 
New Year festival. 
Another favourite number is 
eight, which means "fortune". 
The bogy number is four, which 
sounds like the word for "dying" or 
People in Hong Kong don't like 
living on the 14th floor or at number 
4 in a street. 
"Even worse is 44, because if four 
is death then 44 is certain death," 
said Fong. 
Chinese home buyers had been 
willing to pay councils hundreds of 
dollars to have their house numbers 
changed from 4 to 3A or 3B. 
The Chinese were among immi- 
grant groups to make gambling 
popular in Australia, says Jan 
McMillen, professor of gaming at 
the University of Western Sydney, 
"Most of the people who settled 
this country came from cultures 
that were predisposed to gambling 
and a belief in luck-the Chinese 
Irish Catholics, the Mediterranean 
countries. And since the 1970s 
there's been a second wave of Asian 
"The puritan Protestant view has 
been that you are rewarded for 
effort, not luck. But the Protestants 
have been overwhelmed. 
"It's been interpreted as a victory 
for the working class. Wowserism 
has become an insult." 
On average, Friday the 13th 
occurs 1.71 times a year, according 
to University of NSW probability 
expert Professor Estate Khmaladze. 
It can occur a maximum of three 
times in one year. That happens 
only when it falls in February in a 
non-leap year, followed by one in 
March, as is the case this year. The 
third is in November. 
Why Friday the 13th should be 
considered unlucky is not clear 
although one explanation is that 
Christ was crucified on a Friday and 
there were 13 men at the Last 

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