Gambling: Winning a 50

Main Piece: GC’s father used to go and play dominoes and gamble on that. She said that she “always liked it because [her] daddy would give the 50 dollar bills to me,” because he was superstitious that winning a 50 dollar bill and keeping it was bad luck. GC said that her father would never keep or spend a 50 dollar bill he’d won gambling himself, he would always give it away. Whenever he won a 50, he would leave the game immediately so that his bad luck didn’t start during his next game.

When GC grew up and began going to casinos and gambling, she continued the superstition under the impression that it was bad luck. She’s never even “seen a 50 dollar bill in a casino, never, even on the slot machines. They’ll accept 5s, 10s, 20s, 100s, just not 50s.” She said that when she cashes out from a session, they’ll always pay a 50 with two 20s and a 10 rather than one bill. When she asked her husband, who also goes to casinos, if he’d ever kept a 50 dollar bill when he’d won one, she said he was shocked, almost offended. 

Context: This superstition applies to gambling either in a local community setting or a casino, when the winner of a pot gets a 50 dollar bill. GC is a 76 year old woman living in Arkansas. She goes to casinos with her husband semi-frequently.

Informant’s Thoughts: GC said that she would guess the tradition started due to the relative rarity of 50 dollar bills compared to other bills like a common 20 or 10. While she doesn’t know the origins of this superstition, this could be a reason why it started.

Archivist’s Thoughts: I think that this shows the common idea of gamblers being superstitious. So much of gambling relies on luck that it’s easy to formulate superstitions that attribute one’s bad luck to a misstep they made. Keeping a 50 dollar bill, because of their rarity, could have happened to precede a loss streak, and the tradition became so prevalent that even casinos couldn’t carry 50 dollar bills because it would lose them business.