Superstitions are a fascinating thing. According to good old Google, a superstition is the belief that an unrelated action, event, or practice can influence a certain outcome or consequence of events without any underlying evidence. I’m a superstitious person by nature, and I’m also entertained by the popular superstitions of others.
Certain groups of people seem more likely to develop and believe in superstitions, such as athletes. One of my favorite widely known superstitions is the “playoff beard”, where athletes don’t shave their beards in the playoffs until elimination. Although I know it’s completely ridiculous and arbitrary, and my rational brain knows it has absolutely no effect on the outcome of the playoffs…I’m also super invested in them every post-season, and I’ve been known to yell at my TV when I see a player not participating in the tradition. These kinds of superstitions become part of the fans expectations and add to their viewing enjoyment. And that’s the best part about superstitions! They are harmless and can also be very entertaining.
Other than athletes, I would have to say that gamblers are the most superstitious group of people. After all, superstitions are deeply rooted in luck (or the lack thereof), and who depends on luck more than gamblers?
It isn’t hard to see how superstitions can quickly develop while gambling. Any article of clothing worn during a particularly lucky hot streak is quickly associated as a “lucky outfit” and vice versa. Personally, I can tell you exactly what I was wearing the one and only time I got a royal flush at the poker table. And to this day, it is still my go-to poker outfit…unfortunately, it has never worked in quite the same way again!
But it doesn’t stop me from trying. The routine has become a superstition of sorts. If I have a bad session, I will often think “this wouldn’t have happened if I was wearing my lucky outfit!” when in reality, I’m sure it has little to do with the way the cards fall…that being said, I’m not convinced enough to stop wearing it.
Most gamblers share quite a few superstitions, and poker players are amongst the most superstitious of the gamblers. I think this has to do with it being a strategy game, so how we feel and behave has an impact on our table presence. And our table presence impacts our chip stacks.
If a player feels luckier when wearing their lucky hat or using their lucky card marker, they are more likely to play with confidence. That can translate into a table image of a more skilled opponent, which can pay off in chips! Let’s go over some of the most common superstitions that poker players (and gamblers in general) tend to share.
As I already mentioned, many gamblers have lucky outfits that are associated to one or more of their wins. For an outfit (or a particular article of clothing) to become a true superstition, it must have a pattern of winning sessions. And once that happens, just try to pry the lucky item out of a gamblers hands! I can tell you that I would fight to the death for my lucky necklace in particular. That baby has never let me down!
Walk into any busy poker room, and there will always be a few players that are using their own trinket or token to mark their cards. Usually a small figurine, or a poker chip from another casino, these items are significant to the particular player.
One of the most common card markers is a World Series of Poker card marker from a lucky year they had at the series. This is not only a lucky trinket, but also has significance as a souvenir from years past. These WSOP card markers can evoke happy memories for the player, and can also be a great conversation starter at the tables, often sparking more than a few “war stories” that evolve into urban legends over time.
Many people also use miniature figurines as their card markers too. I have a friend that uses a metal four-leaf clover to mark his chips, and he won’t play poker without it. He won’t even play a friendly home game without his lucky clover. And all because he had the best hot streak of his life the first time he used it. Voila, instant superstition!
Gamblers have long thought that $50 bills are unlucky. Many gamblers will refuse to be paid with $50’s, for fear that it will jinx them. This superstition has become so widespread, that some casino cages won’t even have $50’s in their cash drawers anymore! That is one powerful superstition. And many also view the $2 bill the same way, which could be part of the reason that they aren’t even in regular circulation anymore. Many people don’t even know that we have a $2 bill!
It’s rare to spend an evening in a poker room and NOT hear someone call for a “one time”. This is the catchphrase used by poker players to help them get lucky in an all in hand where they are behind in the odds. It has become a poker ritual and also a superstition all at once. Some believe that it helps them “suck out” in a situation where they are unlikely to win, and others believe saying it more than once negates the use. While it is always fun to say it, it’s never fun when your opponent asks for their “one time”…but at least when they suck out on you, you can blame the “one time”!
Johnny Chan’s Lucky Orange
Even though this is not a common superstition held by many, I just couldn’t write about gambling superstitions without mentioning my very favorite one. The legendary Johnny Chan is known for bringing an orange to the poker tables with him. Although he has stated many times that he didn’t bring the orange with him for luck or superstitious reasons (he only brought it because the pleasing citrus scent helped him deal with the smell of cigarettes at the tables), after his second consecutive WSOP title, it became associated as his “lucky” orange regardless.
And in true superstition style, other players began bringing other various fruits to the poker tables…no doubt in hopes of channeling some of that lightning that Johnny managed to bottle! Unfortunately, there has been no confirmation that any other fruits have since had similar impacts on anyone’s poker game….yet!
Now that we have gone over some of the most common gambling superstitions, let’s all grab our lucky outfits, card markers and fruit, and I’ll see you at the tables…and as long as you’re not in a hand with me, I wish you all the best of luck with your “one time!”