Superstitions and luck in poker and gambling are a huge part of everyday life for all, even for the most realistic people. Given this fact it shouldn’t come as a surprise that superstitions around in the world of gambling, where poker players and gamblers have to rely on chance to have any hope of achieving their goals of winning at poker. Even when it comes to almost exclusively skill-based games like poker, players sometimes tend to turn to the irrational in order to explain their victories and defeats. Johnny Chan, who won the World Series of Poker Main Event back in 1988, sniffed an orange to combat the smoky odor of the casino; the citrus smell cleared his nostrils, but unsurprisingly enough, he has since considered orange to be his lucky charm for poker. Sam Farha finished as a runner up in the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event. Despite being a non-smoker, he dangled a lucky unlit cigarette from his lips throughout the entire poker tournament. As you can see even the best of the best, professional poker players, who are otherwise known for being among the most calculating and composed poker players in the world, aren’t free from relying on rituals and charms, which are supposed to influence lady luck to smile upon them.
Johnny Chan sniffed an orange to combat the smoky odor of the casino; the citrus smell cleared his nostrils.
Obviously, the less healthy and responsible a gambler’s approach to gaming, the more superstitious he is and more luck he feels he needs to have. Numerous scientific studies have shown that there are significant differences between problem and non-problem casino goers when it comes to their endorsement of such beliefs of luck in poker and gambling. In layman’s terms, the more impulsive the player, the more likely he is to make superstitions the driving force behind the decisions made at the felt, leading to various errors in reasoning during the gambling sessions. What’s more, such players are more likely to manage their bankrolls in an improper manner and generally speaking are more susceptible to tilt. While such irrational beliefs are often very subjective and differ between individuals, there are a number of popular gambling superstitions shared by a significant number of people. Some of the most common ones are never to cross your legs while playing in order not to “cross out your good gambling luck,” not to count your money at the poker table, or to abstain from whistling or singing – much like what you would do when passing through a graveyard. While those beliefs might seem, and often are, pretty harmless on their own, they can have very real impact on the way casinos conduct their business.
In 1998, many customers refused to enter the establishment through the MGM Grand Casino lion’s mouth, believing that it would bring bad luck.
One famous example of such a development was the 1998 renovation of the world famous MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Initially, this Las Vegas Strip landmark was themed after the well-known film studios and the main entrance was modeled after the mouth of the MGM lion. Many customers refused to enter the establishment through the beast’s mouth, believing that it would bring bad luck, and the owners were forced to give it a major overhaul in light of this prejudice of being unlucky before gambling.
Many gamblers and poker players believe that picking the right numbers can affect their fortune and often deliberately avoid hotel rooms with numbers like 4 and 58, because they sound similar to “die” and “won’t prosper” in Cantonese. The number 8 often is associated with prosperity while 3, 6 and 9 are considered lucky numbers which, when combined appropriately with 8, can significantly increase the chances of winning. An example combinations of lucky numbers include 1388 (“prosperity in one’s lifetime”), 168 (“prosper all the way”) and 998 (“prosper for a long time”).
When it comes to luck in poker, there’s a large number of game-specific superstitions which, when you think about them in light of gaming theory, don’t really make a lot of sense and will surely be detrimental to your performance should you ever choose to fall back on them. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all superstitious beliefs are going to negatively affect your performance. Sometimes luck in poker can pay off and win massive pots. Many successful poker players and gamblers have used lucky charms, such as a four leaf clover, to help relieve some of the tension that comes with participating in high-level competition. The important part is never to lose sight of the bigger picture and not to obsess about details and luck in poker that, ultimately, have no impact on the game played whatsoever. If you want to wear your favorite red T-shirt to boost your confidence, by all means do so – but don’t ever be that guy or girl who folds a winning poker hand in favorable circumstances because of some vague prejudice about gambling luck.