by Daniel Johnson of Predictem.com
We all know that no matter how much skill a poker player has, luck will always been a constant, but inconsistent factor in the outcome of a cash session or tournament. Even the pros have to deal with the fact that they will have horrible losing days often because of cold cards, but could a professional poker player really be superstitious? These are the players who make a living off of making rational and well-informed decisions. Some use complicated mathematics and others can analyze situations so well that they might as well be able to use x-ray vision to see their opponent's hole cards. But even with all the advantages a professional has in skill, many still turn to superstitions to change their results at the tables.
Superstitions are a long standing part of poker and of gambling. Some superstitions involve players eating at a poker table and others involve what they wear. Superstitions can range from the completely bizarre to simple little ticks or twitches. Whatever superstition a player employs, no matter how silly it may seem, they do it because it works. Well…they think it does for them at least and isn't that all that matters?
Even Texas Dolly, the man who wrote the first great poker book, is superstitious. First there's Doyle Brunson's little trinket/card protector that he even named "Casper" because of the Ghostbusters logo on it. Casper's ability to bring good luck is so powerful that Brunson was able to rent it out to other players for $200 for 30 minute intervals at the 2005 World Series of Poker according to the ESPN telecast the same year.
"I figure I rented him out for over $15,000 in a one year period! Not bad for a $5 piece of black rock!" Brunson said on his Doylesroom.com blog.
Casper quickly garnered his own reputation as a rabbit-foot-like charm, so much so that fellow poker pro Howard Lederer bought Casper for $3500. But instead of simply handing Casper over, Brunson entered one condition into the deal: That he would keep Casper until his death and in Brunson's will Lederer would be named as the beneficiary. Talk about some serious superstitions.
Others are even stranger than that. Johnny Chan brings an orange with him to the table for good luck, because when he won the Main Event in 1988 he had an orange that he used sniff to clear his nostrils of the smoky odor in the casino. Today players are not allowed to smoke at the table during WSOP events, but that doesn't stop Johnny from brining the trusty piece of fruit. Players will do almost anything if it works. Sam Farha's famously known for having an unlit cigarette dangling from his lip. Every poker fan saw a lot of him and his cigarettes during his second place finish at the 2003 WSOP Main Event. The strange thing is Farha doesn't smoke.
"If I have a winning session, I'll keep the same things on, the same moves, everything. I don't smoke, but I keep a lucky cigarette. I lose a pot, I change the cigarette," Farha said during the 2003 ESPN telecast.
Poker players might think superstitions work, but why do they really believe them? These are rational people who use sound judgment and logic to make money. Michael Shermer, author of a 1997 book titled Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and Other Confusion of our Time, is under the impression that these types of people want simple conclusions and answers to their problems. Sometimes thinking rationally about something takes much more of an effort than believing in superstition.
"More than any other, the reason people believe weird things is because they want to…it feels good. It is comforting. It is consoling," said Shermer in the book.
And maybe after long hours, days and even years of working at a game that requires you to stress about every little decision, having some comfort is all a person needs.
"What superstitions do is keep you thinking positive, so if you think it works then you should do it," said Scott Fischman during the 2005 ESPN telecast of the WSOP.
So whether you believe in the power of luck and superstition or use deductive reasoning at the poker table, superstitions remain a fun and integral part of the poker culture. If anything they certainly keep things interesting. And hey, people should get to believe what they want to after all, even if it does seem a bit odd.
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