The Luck of the Irish – Meaning, Origin, and Inspiration for Slot Developers
Many people have heard of "the luck of the Irish," and with St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, it seems like the perfect opportunity to explore the concept and how it translates to online gambling. The phrase may be just five words long, but an entire genre of slots has sprung up around it, full of their own iconography and mythology.
Leprechauns, Rainbows, and Pots of Gold
One of the most common symbols of Irish luck is the leprechaun. Leprechauns have long been a part of Irish folklore, and their origins can be traced back to medieval times. It is thought that the first mention of Leprechauns was in a story called 'The Adventure of Fergus, Son of Léti.' The story features three small characters who are imprisoned by the Prince of Ulster and offer him three wishes in exchange for their freedom.
Today, we think of leprechauns as being dressed in green, usually with a ginger beard and a large hat. By tradition, they work as cobblers and love playing practical jokes. However, this is quite a modern concept. Prior to the 20th century, they were generally depicted as wearing red.
Appearance aside, leprechauns are also known for pursuing the legendary pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It is this link to treasure and riches that has helped make them into a symbol of luck. This is one of the reasons why there are so many Irish themed slots based upon leprechauns, and we shall take a look at the best of them a little later in this post.
The Phrase’s Origins
Returning to the phrase "the luck of the Irish", its origins can be traced to America. There was mass immigration from Ireland to America in the 19th century, with thousands of people going to try to make their fortunes. Many people went in search of gold and silver, and there is some evidence that Irish miners were responsible for some of the biggest finds.
While today we use the phrase in a mostly jovial manner when first used, it likely had a rather unpleasant subtext, suggesting that the Irish were not deserving of their good fortune. This is the theory put forward by Dr. Edward T. O'Donnell, an Associate Professor of History at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, in his book ‘1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History.'
It is worth pointing out that there is an antonymous expression, "Murphy’s Law”, which is generally used to mean that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The use of a typical Irish surname suggests that bad luck is inevitable for Irish people, which is probably why it is not found in the world of online slots.
One of the most common symbols of Irish luck is the four-leaf clover. However, the use of the symbol is the result of a misconception. The traditional symbol of Ireland is a shamrock, but this only has three leaves. A four-leaf clover is considered lucky as it is the result of a genetic mutation that happens roughly once in every 10,000 clover plants. It is arguable that today four-leaf clovers are associated with Ireland, but this is historically inaccurate.
There are references to lucky four-leaf clovers throughout British folklore, with some traditions assigning a different meaning to each of the leaves. The first represents hope, the second faith, the third love, and the fourth brings luck to the finder. In fact, there are also occurrences of five and six-leaf clovers, which are far rarer, and once a 56-leaf clover was found in Japan.
The lucky horseshoe is also associated with luck and Ireland, but it does not actually have its origins in Ireland. However, there are distinctly Irish symbols that are associated with luck. For instance, the Irish Harp, which is meant to reflect the immortality of the soul, and the Celtic Cross, which combines a traditional Christian Cross with a Celtic circle.
Examples of Irish Luck
Whether or not the Irish as a nation are luckier than others, there are plenty of examples of Irish people experiencing good fortune. For example, a group of 22 Dublin-based bus drivers shared a €23.8 million lottery jackpot win in 2016.
More recently, 2019 started with a bang for a couple from County Down who won an enormous €115 million EuroMilllions jackpot. One of the biggest ever wins from an online slot machine also happened in County Down. Sean Dyle won a €4.8 million jackpot from a single spin when playing the slot Mars Attack.
The Top Irish Themed Slots
There are countless Irish themed slots that bring together all of the concepts discussed above. Here is a quick rundown of our favorites.
Finn and the Swirly Spin Slot – NetEnt
While this game is almost 5 years old, it certainly deserves mention as it was so innovative. The game takes place on a 5x5 grid, but rather than using a traditional payout structure or cluster mechanic; the symbols move in a stone spiral towards the central position. Payouts are won by forming groups of three matching symbols. Winning groups are then removed from the spiral and are replaced by a gold star, which acts as a wild and scatter. If the star reaches the center of the spiral, the free spins begin. As always with NetEnt slots, the game is brilliantly designed with enjoyable graphics and music, doing a fantastic job of bringing the Irish theme to life.
Rainbow Ryan Slot – Yggdrasil
Many of the Irish themed slots out there are very similar to one another. If you want to play a game that brings something new to the theme, then this is definitely worth a spin. The slot from Yggdrasil is based around a concert given by the rock star leprechaun Ryan. It features 4,096 ways to win, and it is packed full of features. There is a randomly triggered rainbow reels feature which sees reels synchronize to display matching symbols as well as a free spins round during which at least two reels will be synched on every spin. The game has an RTP of 96.3%, and it is possible to win up to 2,000 times the bet on every spin.
Leprechaun Goes Wild slot – Play’n GO
At first glance, this appears to be a standard Irish themed slot game full of four-leaf clovers, lucky horseshoes, mugs of beer, and so on. However, there is more to Leprechaun Goes Wild slot from Play’n GO. First of all, the leprechaun wild symbols play on the slot’s title; they demonstrate his wild side with him drinking and smoking cigars and pipes as he helps to form wins. Then there are the two bonus features triggered by the four-leaf clover scatter symbol.
Either five extra wilds are added to the grid, one on each reel, or an extra scatter is added to the grid to trigger the free spins. Better yet, during the free spins, the wilds become sticky for the duration of the round. Topping it all off, there is a top payout of 10,000 times the bet up for grabs.