How Does Paul Pick Winners?
D. H. Lawrence's story "The Rocking-Horse Winner" has a mystical, magical, or possibly diabolical air about it. The author never explains or even hints why Paul is able to accumulate a fortune by betting on race horses. Is there some magical way of picking winners? Many people would like to believe so, especially horse players. Could Paul keep on picking winners forever if he hadn't died trying to please his mother?
Paul is probably experiencing two phenomena which are commonly taken for granted among gamblers. One of them is what is called "beginner's luck." It does seem rather uncanny how novices, especially young ones, can have amazing luck when they first start betting on anything, especially horses. Maybe they have pure intuition, while experienced horse players know too much about past performances, jockeys, trainers, overlays, underlays, parlays, longshots, favorites, and everything else. The other phenomenon is what is called a "lucky streak." In all gambling, it seems common for a person to "get hot" and have an unbroken string of winning bets, and then, in accordance with the law of averages, the same gambler will "get cold" and have a string of losses.
Casino operators in Las Vegas take these "streaks" seriously. If a shooter "gets hot" at the craps table, for example, the "stick men" will keep switching the dice on him in an attempt to cool him off. The house is not only losing money on the shooter, but most of the people around the table will start betting with him when they sense he is on a winning streak.
In the 2003 movie The Cooler, the character played by William H. Macy is so consistently unlucky in life as well as in gambling that he gets a job as a "cooler." When a gambler is on a hot streak, all the Cooler has to do is stroll over and stand beside him and the hot streak will go up in smoke instantaneously.
D. H. Lawrence does not need to assert that Paul has some supernatural power for the purposes of his story. It is still largely realistic. Paul is just going through a period during which he is profiting from two legendary phenomena combined--beginner's luck and a lucky streak. In time, if he had lived, Paul would likely have lost his beginner's luck because he would no longer be a beginner. He would have come to the end of his lucky streak and started to lose all the money he had won.