8 Weird And Wonderful Superstitions You’ll See In Poker

8 Weird And Wonderful Superstitions You’ll See In Poker

While poker is undoubtedly a game of skill, there is an element of luck to it, especially in the short term. And wherever there’s luck, superstition will follow – a perfect topic to cover on Friday 13th!

A lot of people believe there are things you can do to bring you good luck or ward off bad luck at the table. And whether you believe in them or not, poker superstitions give people a feeling they have a greater degree of control over random events and can help boost their performance.

Some of the best players in the game are superstitious to some degree, and they don’t even try to hide it.

In fact, most people who have spent many years inside casinos and poker rooms have at least a few irrational beliefs, even if they don’t talk about them or want to acknowledge them.

So, if you’re new to the poker scene, you’ll likely encounter some of the behaviors discussed in this article.

1. Lucky Card Protectors

Of all poker superstitions out there, this one is by far the most common, and I’m not even sure I’d call it superstition. Many players have a special item on them at all times and use it as a card protector.

It could be a chip from a different casino where they won a big tournament, a small figurine that’s of some significance to them, or anything else.

I don’t think a majority of these players actually believe their card protectors have magical powers.

Rather, having them at the table makes them more confident, which is usually a good thing for them. Anything that helps you feel better while playing and doesn’t hurt other players can only be a good thing.

Of course, there will always be those who take things too far. Some players will refuse to sit down to play if they’ve forgotten their protector. They’d rather drive home and back to get it than risk playing without their lucky charm.

Without passing any judgment, if you notice this kind of behavior from someone, you can safely assume their knowledge of poker strategy might be shaky, to say the least.

Lucky card protector on stack of cards
Image: WorldPokerTour/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

2. Believing In “Unlucky” Players Or Dealers

Poker has its ups and downs.

Even the best players in the game don’t book a winning session every time they play. Losing is just a part of the game and there is no way to avoid it.

However, not everyone would agree with this.

Some people hate losing, and they’ll always find an excuse for why it happened. And one of the most common excuses I’ve heard over the years is that a particular dealer or a player brings them bad luck.

If you’ve been playing in a live setting for any significant period of time, you’ve probably had an opportunity to see this kind of behavior.

As soon as a certain dealer sits down for their shift, you might hear comments like “Not you again” or “I never win when he/she deals the cards”.

Or even worse, they start shouting, insulting, or blaming the dealer for a bad run of cards or an unlucky river, which made them lose.

Now that is ridiculous if you ask me.

This happens with players as well but to a lesser extent. Dealers usually rotate at least once an hour, while the “unlucky” player could hang around for the entire evening.

So, superstitious players are more likely to blame a particular dealer, fixating on a few big hands they lost over the years when the dealer in question was on duty.

Unlike card protectors, this is a very irrational belief that has no foundation in reality and is probably bad for your game.

If you get up every time a particular dealer sits down, you’re wasting time. If you keep playing with the idea in the back of your mind that they will screw you over, somehow, it will adversely influence your game and you’ll probably make some suboptimal decisions.

And, to make things even funnier, I’ve seen people blame dealers even when there is an automatic shuffler at the table, where their only job is to pass the cards.

Talk about taking things to the extreme…

3. Card Shuffling Superstitions

I heard it countless times at the tables.

“Dealer, please do a better job of shuffling the cards.”

When players happen to get on a cold streak or get into a couple of cooler situations, they’ll often look for the reason why.

Since there is no real reason (coolers and cold decks are part of poker, sometimes you get them, and sometimes your opponents do), they’ll blame it on the lack of dealer’s shuffling skills.

The fact of the matter is, if there is no cheating going on, the way cards are shuffled doesn’t matter at all. And the theory that cards get “stuck” together doesn’t hold true, either, as they’re dealt one at a time, and there is a cut before each deal.

Although it can be a bit annoying and slow down the game, they’ll still get their fair share of coolers, big hands, and trash, just like everyone else.

4. Stacking Chips In A Certain Way

For some players, the way they stack their chips is very important.

You’ll have players who only do stacks of 20, for example, or who never do stacks bigger than 10, even if they’re running out of the space on the felt.

For some, this is just a habit; for others, though, it is much more than that as they believe the way they stack their chips could influence their results.

Poker chips stack
Image: WorldPokerTour/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

On the scale of superstitions, this is a minor one for the most part.

It can only become problematic if a player insists on keeping mixed stacks because “they like it that way”.

This makes it harder or even impossible for other players to figure out how many chips they have in front of them. The same goes for players who prefer to “keep their big chips in the back”.

You can have your superstitions, but they’re only tolerated for as long as they don’t mess up with other players’ play. Keeping “dirty” stacks or hiding your big chips may be okay in a home game, but no casino or poker room will tolerate this.

So, if you’re particular about the way you like to stack your chips, make sure your desire is along the lines of house rules.

5. Hanging On To Lucky Chips

In most player groups, there is always at least one player that others see as the lucky one.

Whether this is because the player is good or they’ve been running super-hot (or both), others insist they are just so lucky.

And, for some players, winning chips off of these lucky players have a special significance.

They’ll often want to hold on to these chips for as long as possible because it can bring them some of that good luck as well. More often than not, this is a joke they don’t really believe (at least I hope so), but it can create a lot of fun banter at the tables.

If this is something you strongly believe in, you might not want to let other players know about it because they might take advantage of it.

For example, the lucky player might adjust their play knowing their chips have a special value assigned to them. Or, other players at the table might want to bluff more frequently, knowing there is a portion of your stack you’d rather not lose.

6. Wearing Lucky Clothes

If you’ve seen some interviews with poker players, even some of the best ones, you’ve probably heard them talk about an item of clothing they believe brings them luck at the tables.

It could be a hat, a hoodie, a shirt, or even lucky underwear. They’ll often wear it for important tournaments and especially for final table appearances.

This is another harmless superstition.

You’ll be wearing some clothes at the tables one way or the other, so if wearing your lucky shirt or hat makes you feel better, go for it – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Even if it doesn’t bring you the good luck you’re hoping for, it can’t hurt your chances, either.

7. Skipping The Hand After A Misdeal

Some players actually believe there is some greater power involved with poker, call it luck or whatever else, and they don’t want to mess with that power.

So, when there is a misdeal, requiring them to give back their cards or receive a different card, they’ll skip on the repeated hand without even looking at their cards.

The reasoning behind this is that “those are not the cards I was supposed to get.”

Believe it or not, I have seen this a couple of times.

I guess this only makes sense if you believe there are actual hands you are and aren’t supposed to get. If you look at every new deal as a separate and random event (as you should), then there is absolutely no reason to pass on a hand.

I don’t suggest doing this.

You only get a limited number of hands in a session or a tournament, and every single one of them is important. This is especially true for later stages of a tournament, where one hand can significantly boost your chances of winning.

8. Unlucky Hands

While professional players don’t believe any hands to be lucky or unlucky by their own merit, many casuals who have been around for a while have hands they deem unlucky, like the dead man’s hand.

This superstition usually stems from them remembering one or two ugly bad beats they had in the past.

And, the funniest part is, people who are steadfast in this belief often deem Aces and Kings, the most powerful starting hands in Hold’em, as very unlucky.

We’ve all had our Aces cracked more than a few times, but these players just can’t get over it.

Because of this superstition, they’ll often play these hands poorly and miss a lot of the value. I’ve seen people shove 200+ big blind stacks with pocket Aces over a normal-sized raise to avoid losing with them again.

Can You Afford To Be Superstitious At The Tables?

Looking at all these various examples of irrational beliefs, it is clear that not all of them are on the same level. Some of them, like card protectors or lucky clothing, are pretty much harmless.

Others, though, like believing some hands are inherently unlucky or that a certain dealer brings you bad luck, can have adverse effects on your play.

There’s nothing wrong with being a bit superstitious, but you can’t let it hurt your game.

So, take what you will from this article.

If you recognize yourself in some of these, at least give it a think and see if you are leaving money on the table because of irrational decisions.

In the end, if you aren’t a professional player making a living at the felt, there is nothing wrong with having these superstitions.

If sticking to some of your beliefs help you feel better or have more fun, go ahead and do it – just don’t take things to the extreme and you’ll be just fine.

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