Jan 18 2010

15 Poker Superstitions and More

written by: John under Poker Comments: 4

People have debated for years over the concept of whether poker is a game of skill or a game of chance.

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “skill” as follows:

1. the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution and performance. 2. a developed aptitude or ability.

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “luck” as follows:

1. a force that brings good fortune or adversity. 2. the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual.

Lucky Poker PantiesWhile a poker player will benefit immensely from proper training and nothing can replace the value of experience, the game cannot be won with skill alone. Luck does play a role in poker, but the word luck has somewhat of a negative connotation, especially when it comes to gambling. Luck can also be translated to “how the cards fall,” which is just a factor of the game, and without the randomness of the deal that a well-shuffled deck provides, the game just wouldn’t be any fun. Of course, anyone can play poker, whether they know what they are doing or not, and success in online poker relies mainly on skill; however, many players who believe in Lady Luck also believe in a different sort of luck, a superstitious approach to fortune that some take very seriously.

Many players feel that being superstitious really helps their game, or maybe it’s just a placebo effect kicking in, but be careful who you say that to. Having something to believe in promotes confidence, which is vital element in poker. If you aren’t feeling lucky, you will subconsciously prevent yourself from winning. Many people have superstitions.

For example, “Find a penny, pick it up. All the day you’ll have good luck.” But wait, it has to be face up or you’re sure to have bad luck. What does that really matter? How about some of these other money-related superstitions: don’t carry a fifty dollar bill, never touch a $2 bill, don’t put your purse on the ground because money walks… These relate to gambling, but more specifically, if a gambler carries a piece of jade, he is likely to be more successful. Other gambling beliefs also exist, like you should carry a deflated balloon or a child’s baby tooth. Still others believe that it is bad luck to change your socks when you are on a winning streak.

Now for some lore attached to specific cards or combinations of them:

  • The four of clubs is believed by many to be a blight upon any hand into which it is dealt. Players feel particularly cursed if the four of clubs is dealt to them on the first hand of a session.
  • A pair of black jacks is said to bring poverty and unhappiness.
  • A hand with Aces and eights is known as the “Dead Man’s Hand” because Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead during a poker game. In his hand he held two pairs: Aces and eights.
  • A pair of red jacks is a sign of an unknown enemy lurking.

Now that you know about these, does that make them apply to you? Did not knowing mean that you were exempt from the bad luck? Here’s some more things to remember next time you’re playing poker or gambling in general:

  • Never play on an uncovered surface (hence, the felt).
  • Don’t pick up and examine your cards before the dealer has finished delivering them to everyone.
  • The left hand has long been associated with evil, so picking up your cards with the left hand is not wise.
  • Whistling or singing during play is said to bring ill fortune.
  • Do not drop a card during play (anyone who mishandles his cards probably doesn’t have his mind on the game and is more likely to make an error or miss good opportunities).
  • You really don’t want to have a lengthy run of spades, it represents death, either to the player himself or someone in his family.
  • And finally, next time you sit down at the computer to play online poker, put Fido out. Dogs bring bad luck to card players. I wonder if this includes paintings of dogs playing poker?

Many well-known players bring a talisman, or good luck charm, to the table with them. Some set these objects on their chip stack, some keep them in a pocket. Other acts of good fortune follow:

  • While shuffling the cards, blow on the deck. It will bring good cards for you. (Blowing on dice seems to also be a popular variation of this superstition).
  • Change your seat if you are experiencing bad luck. Get up, walk around, then reseat yourself. If you are really feeling unlucky, turn your chair around and sit astride. (Turn your chair, turn your luck). If you are afraid of tipping off the other players you can reseat yourself without them knowing by slipping a handkerchief or napkin on your chair, thus breaking contact with the unlucky seat.
  • Before play begins, look through the deck for your favorite card, then touch it with your right index finger.
  • Take off a piece of jewelry for added luck. This might work best for online poker players. “Hey, has anyone seen my Rolex?”

Phil Ivey actually believes that Phil Hellmuth is his lucky charm because whenever Hellmuth and Ivey both make it to a final table together, Ivey wins. Johnny Chan brings a “lucky orange” with him to play, that was original to combat the smell of the smoky casino. If you look closely at the next live poker game you watch on TV, you might see a few other lucky charms sitting atop a player’s hole cards or chip stack. If it worked for you, would you stop using it?

The Future of Luck

With the ever-growing industry that is technology, something new has surfaced in the age of the iPhone. The Lucky Gambling app offers 365 days of daily luck forecasts based on Western and Chinese astrological data. Phil Kelly, President and CEO of Good Luck Gamblers, Las Vegas, NV, said, “The launch of the iPhone app was in response to customer’s requests.” It provides a unique line of Good Luck Tips and Forecasts based upon a proprietary astrological process.

Gamblers using their iPhone app just enter in their birthday and then pick whether they want their forecast based upon Western or Chinese Astrology. They can see their Gambler Profile and what days are their luckiest, it also has their lucky number, their lucky day of the week, or lucky hours of the day, as well as lucky colors. If you’re lucky color is blue, you’ll want to wear blue. Some people even believe that the color of their underwear will sway luck their way.

The bottom line is that we have no actual proof that rituals or charms or even high-tech software can change your luck at poker. But when people feel lucky, they are overall more optimistic, and positive people do seem to win more often. It just flows toward them. So, if having a lucky charm makes you feel that way, then go ahead—it can’t hurt. And no matter how many people try to say that it’s all BS, the belief in luck and superstitious gamblers aren’t going anywhere.

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