Poker Superstitions: Are They Real?
Poker is a game of math and logic. Players win games by analyzing hands, tracking cards, and implementing strategies.
Although they focus on reason, math, and logic, many poker players cling to irrational beliefs during a gaming session. We call these beliefs “superstitions“.
Lots of poker players around the world have their own superstitious beliefs because they believe it brings them good luck in life and when they play poker. This article examines common poker superstitions to determine if they are real.
The Unlucky $50
Poker players love to win money, but some do not love $50 bills. They demand a ten and two twenties instead of one fifty.
But why is this so? Is it true that getting a $50 bill is unlucky?
Here are a few reasons some players prefer not to receive a $50 bill:
- Each $50 bill has a picture of the US politician and military officer Ulysses Grant, who almost destroyed the country’s economy. US poker players who dislike Grant may also dislike $50.
- A $50 note can easily be confused with $20 or $5, and gamblers do not want to receive less money by mistake.
- Counterfeiters focused on making copies of the $50 bill instead of the $100 bill. Gamblers avoid $50 because they do not want to receive a fake.
However, we are unsure if these are the real reasons why some poker players consider $50 as unlucky.
Faith in card protectors is so common among poker players that we wonder if we should call it superstition or tradition.
Many poker players carry a mascot as a card protector.
They believe that the mascot will bring them good luck.
Players are known to bring chips they won at poker tournaments, figurines and even fruit to poker games.
We think poker players are too sensible to believe their mascots have magical powers. They carry special items to the table because of the feel-good factor and the confidence it gives them.
Bringing something that makes you feel confident is a good idea. We know many players who refuse to play if they have forgotten their mascots at home.
The Unlucky Dealer
The top poker players in the world will readily admit that they don’t always win. Most players accept that losing is part of the game and learn the art of losing gracefully.
Some players though end up blaming other players, playing on a full moon night or even blaming the poker dealer for their loss.
They feel that a particular player or dealer is responsible for the cards not acting in their favor.
If you play live poker, you may have observed this behavior at the live poker tables. Players say something along the lines of, “I never win when he or she is the dealer” Some take things too far by insulting the dealer or shouting and blaming them for their bad luck.
The Best Way to Stack the Chips
Some poker players have a lucky way of stacking the chips.
You may have met the weird player who arranges chips in stacks of twenty or ten, even if the felt is too small to hold all the stacks.
Usually, players stack chips in a certain way out of habit, but a few believe that stacking chips in a certain way will bring them luck and somehow, help them win the game.
The simple truth is the way you stack the chips has nothing to do with your performance at the table or the game outcome.
If you listen to poker player interviews, many admit feeling that certain clothes or accessories bring them good luck.
You may have noticed poker players turning up at games wearing the same hat, shirt, or hoodie.
They do not miss wearing their favorite piece of clothing or accessory such as mirrored sunglasses at significant poker tournaments or at the final table of an event.
The reality is that the clothes you wear have nothing to do with how the game turns out. The belief that a shirt or a cap brings good luck is a harmless superstition. While it does not make you luckier, it does not harm your game either.
The Unlucky Left Hand
Doing anything with your left hand is considered unlucky in cultures worldwide. You must avoid using your left hand to pick the cards while playing poker, as many believe doing so is unlucky.
However, poker players avoid using their left hand because they are right-handed and feel uncomfortable doing so.
And what if you are left-handed and have no choice but to use your left hand?
The belief that the left hand is unlucky is baseless. Poker is a game that revolves around excellent decision-making skills which can also help in buisness. So it really does not matter which hand you use to pick your cards, just make sure you make good decisions at the poker table.
The Lucky Menu
Some poker players eat or drink something special because they feel it will bring them luck.
If a player ends up winning a live poker tournament after eating a certain dish at a particular place, they will often try and repeat that to see if they can win again.
Before casinos and poker rooms banned smoking, poker players would smoke certain cigarette brands because it brought them good luck. Today, we see some players with unlit cigarettes in the corner of their mouth. They may be doing it to relieve the stress or because they believe it brings them luck.
Behavior patterns, rituals, and traditions play significant roles in the lives of poker players. Many professional poker players follow certain lucky rituals before playing a tournament or cash game.
For example, Daniel Negreanu watches all five Rocky movies before participating in the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
He calls it an “annual tradition” and says Rocky inspires him like nobody else.
Negreanu went on record to say that Rocky movies are very motivating because Rocky did not quit and that’s the mindset you want to take with you when you play a big tournament like the WSOP. Negreanu has earned more than $21 million playing WSOP events. He has finished in the cash 218 times and won one WSOP ring and six WSOP bracelets.
However, we do not think Negreanu became a poker sensation because of his annual tradition of watching five Rocky movies before playing the WSOP. Watching Rocky movies may have inspired and given him the essential psychological fuel, but many other factors are also responsible for his poker success.
Cross Your Fingers, Not Your Legs
One of the popular superstitions around the world is that crossing your legs at the poker table brings you bad luck, but crossing your fingers brings you good luck.
Good posture is important at the poker table because it helps you focus and makes you feel comfortable.
But crossing legs or fingers does not have anything to do with how the cards fall. You can plant your feet firmly on the floor to be on the safe side.
Chan's Lucky Orange
Have you ever seen Johnny Chan playing poker?
Although not in the limelight since 2010, Chan has won over $8 million playing live poker tournaments.
Interestingly, an orange is responsible for his unbelievable good luck.
Chan never plays without an orange near his chip stacks. He used to be a chain smoker, but quit in the early eighties because he wanted to improve his health.
In the eighties, casinos allowed smoking, and Chan started bringing along an orange to mask the smell of cigarette smoke. Interestingly, Chan’s poker career began taking off around the same time, and he accepted the orange as his good luck charm.
The Unlucky Hands
Poker has no lucky or unlucky hands, but some players think of some hands as lucky or unlucky based on their experiences.
If players have a bad experience while playing a particular hand, they will consider it unlucky and believe that nothing good will come out of it.
Many poker players feel that high-value hands with Kings and Aces are unlucky. They refuse to play such hands and pass up great opportunities to make money. The truth is that all players crack their aces at some point or the other. Believing that they will always do so is erroneous.
The best poker players consider hands as hands, neither lucky nor unlucky. They learn from their mistakes, sharpen their skills, and develop new strategies to play better. They do not blame dealers, hands, fellow players, or anything else for how their game turns out.
Superstitions are irrational beliefs. Most poker superstitions are amusing but harmless. For example, wearing lucky clothes, carrying card protectors or mascots, eating lucky food, or following certain traditions don’t have any direct impact on the game. The simple truth is that doing so makes you feel good and confident, and when you feel good, you play better.
Being superstitious is not wrong as long you do not allow them to harm your game. You don’t need to give up your superstitious beliefs, especially if they make you feel better, but we suggest you avoid taking things too far!