Most poker players are steeped in logic and math. They analyse hands and determine the best odds, track particular cards that may be left in the deck, and strategically scrutinise the situation and options to decide on their next move.
For people who are so focused on logic, math, and reason, there are still quite a few who cling to some unique superstitions.
Here’s a look at some of the more common of those in the game.
These superstitions may not have logic or reason behind them but play at a table long enough, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear about some of these.
1. No Fifties Please
Every poker player obviously likes to win money. But some players when exchanging those winning chips for cash don’t want anything to do with a fifty-dollar bill. A night at the cash game may have resulted in a nice $1,250 profit. But many players will instead opt for two twenties and a ten rather than a fifty.
What’s the deal with this superstition? That answer is probably lost with time but the sense that a $50 bill is unlucky remains and there are numerous theories for its genesis.
One argument is that former U.S. Civil War General and President Ulysses Grant was poor at managing the nation's economy. His picture on the fifty may have drawn the ire of Americans. Others believe the mob in Las Vegas buried bodies with a $50 bill in the victim’s jacket pocket.
Two origin ideas seem the most likely. As LasVegasAdvisor.com notes: “... at one point, the $50 bill, as opposed to the $100, was primarily targeted by counterfeiters; hence, gamblers chose to avoid accepting fifties, in case they got stuck with a fake bill.”
Another likely scenario is more practical – fifties are more likely to be confused with $5 or $20 bills. A gambler certainly doesn’t want to make mistakes with his cash.
2. “Good Luck All-In” = Bad Luck
It’s the phrase every player hears after being on a short stack for a while and finally, finally finding a nice hand to ship it all-in. Other players may offer words of comfort in wishing you some luck, but it seems inevitable those pocket Aces or Kings end up on the short end after the “Good-luck-all-in” encouragement.
This superstition comes from players who’ve heard that phrase a few times too many and been sent to the rail. No one likes that feeling of making a tournament exit – and many don’t like the “good luck” wish that precedes it.
3. Don’t Pay the All-In Early
This superstition piggybacks a bit on No. 2, but many players find this to be bad luck as well. For example, one player may be all-in for 10,275 chips with A♦K♥ and called by a player with more chips and holding the inferior A♠J♠.
Once the cards are tabled, sometimes the player behind in this situation may go ahead and count out the 10,275 chip, ready to relinquish them to his opponent.
Many players see this hasty move as a sure sign of bad luck. In our scenario above, that flop may have brought 7♠3♦K♥– a nice board for Mr Big Slick. Inevitably, or at least in the minds of superstitious players, runner-runner cards secure the A♠J♠ a straight, flush, or even worse, back-to-back Jacks to send the player to the rail.
4. A Hex from Packing it Up
This scenario involves a similar all-in as above, but the tables are turned. The player who has moved all-in has the inferior hand and knows he’s in trouble. In this case, he may start grabbing his hoodie, backpack, and water bottle anticipating he’ll be heading out the door shortly. But many players see packing the belongings as a reversal of fate – ensuring their own strong hand’s demise.
That player packing up “always” seems to spike a card keeping him in the game and returning to his seat, or so the thinking goes. His opponent might prefer this lucky lad to wait for the flop, turn, and river to play out – and then see a quick exit.
5. Never Count Your Money, While You’re Sittin’ at the Table
This saying is a from the old school of poker. Most players have probably at least heard the famous Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler”, but this line seems out of place for most modern poker players. Today’s rounders prefer to know where they stand in the game on the table.
The thinking presumed that a player counting his money invited bad luck upon his remaining time at the tables. But maybe there was also a deeper meaning? A player constantly counting, and recounting may be more worried about the security of his bankroll than playing some cards.
In other words, know your bankroll but don’t be afraid to mix it up in a pot here and there.
6. Bad Luck Hands
Everyone seems to have one – that “bad luck” hand that seems to lose no matter how you play it.
Aggressive? It’s a loser.
Slow play? No luck.
Ace-King, aka Big Slick, seems to be a frequent target in this superstition classification. Many players are not fond of Jack-Jack as well, feeling there is just no “right way” to play it, and that it always seems to bring bad luck and a chip-losing outcome.
Well,obviously,that’s not true, but superstitions aren’t based on fact, logic, or reason. Some players go so far as to claim pocket Aces aren’t ever good for them. The truth is most players would probably take any of these hands over and over again – even those pesky pocket Jacks.
But a few brushes with bad beats have some players avoiding or playing in fear with these hands. Play optimum poker, read the table well and avoid pitfalls – even with those bad luck hands.
7. Wear It Well … and Often
Elite athletes often find comfort in regular schedules and routine. Some can take that concept to extremes. For poker players, that can extend to wearing the same clothes over and over again, during a particularly hot run at the tables. Afraid to change the good fortune that they’re been dealt, many players will don the same shirt, pants, shoes, and more.
Some players may even favour the same meal or drink day after day. A specific card protector or T-shirt might be seen as lucky. Patterns seem to matter to some card sharks, and they feel it’s better to keep things on an even keel than to mix it up. Change might invite a bad omen. Apparently, clothes don’t make the man, but consistency does.