Humans are an interestingly superstitious species, with a built-in penchant for believing in inexplicable things.
Poker players are no exception in this regard, and many hold a misplaced assignment of cause and effect, that can lead to habitual rituals and only cause you harm.
Irrational beliefs are often held by poker players whose experience has let them develop various superstitions.
Probably one of the most common superstitions is having a favorable starting hand, which can lead to many sub-optimal decisions and decrease your win rate at the same time.
The good news is that it is not too hard to get away from this way of thinking and improve your game when you understand the reasons for these plays and the effect it could have.
How To Choose Your Starting Hands
When playing poker online at real money poker sites, players have access to a vast range of games with varying limits. In this internet context, players have to rely less on psychology and deception, and instead need to put more focus on playing in the most statistically sound way.
This means playing the hands with the highest chance of winning and mucking the ones that are unlikely to hit anything on a flop.
It sounds simple, but in nearly every game, you will encounter players betting big on weak hands when out of position. No matter how much they study, they still can't help thinking with their hearts over their heads.
Even though psychology is also important, proper hand selection will take you much further in today‘s games, so that should be your primary consideration. If you are not sure where to start, you can grab preflop poker hand charts and see these ranges for yourself.
In games against weaker players who get scared off monster bets, you can get away with playing weaker holdings. However, if a player tried to do this against professionals, they would quickly find their stacks depleting.
What You Can Learn From Artificial Intelligence
Players develop superstitions about certain hands over time. For example, the starting hand of Queen/Six is far from optimal, and players should probably muck it every single time.
Bet if a player has played this hand a few times in the past and hit trips or even a full house on the flop, they will have incorrectly cemented a belief that it is in some way lucky. It will make them feel more inclined to play it each time.
In addition to certain poker players having their favored hands that they like to play every time, there are also a few common superstitions held by a large number of players.
For example, Ace and eight is also known as the Dead Man‘s Hand, and some people believe it foreshadows a run of bad luck.
If players allow their play to be dictated by superstition, it is hugely detrimental to their optimal GTO poker strategy. Pocket jacks are considered unlucky hand as well, mainly because this holding is misplayed so frequently that some players believe it is a losing hand.
For example, a player might decide to call a pre-flop raise when out of position because they believe their „lucky“ hand will hit something, which is probably the worst reason to make any play.
One of the reasons why artificial intelligence has proven to be such a fearsome opponent to expert poker players is the fact that it doesn‘t possess human weaknesses such as emotional decision making and superstitions.
It doesn't attribute good fortune to a specific set of cards, and for this reason, it only plays the hands that have a positive expected value.
It can adapt its game to play a wider range, though, depending on the level of the opponents. For example, if the other players are playing particularly tight, it represents an opportunity for the machine to play more aggressively.
Every poker player worth his salt knows the range of cards they should be playing. Of course, it depends on the position and the level of your competition, but for the most part, it includes broadways, pocket pairs, and suited connectors.
A machine such as Pluribus, which has beaten some of the best poker players in the world, would only play this range of hands pre-flop and much any hands that would not be seen as optimal.
If players can drop the superstition and start thinking more like a machine, they will massively increase their chance of success. It would also help to try to control your emotions and not let them get the better of you.
Machines don‘t get angry at a bad beat or feel like they need to bet big on the next hand to recover their losses. Someone who aspires to be a professional poker player should act with the same composure, and if you are wondering what hands to play, you can always take a look at the poker guide.
What Goes Around Comes Around
It should also be noted that if you have bad luck with a particular hand, which is considered among the range of good holdings, you should still keep playing it, and you shouldn‘t associate this with being an unlucky hand even if you lose a couple of pots in a row.
The bottom line here is that over the years, players have continually proven that poker is a game of skill rather than luck.
For this reason, nobody should be playing the game in a way that leaves too many things to chance. If you are not sure how to fix those mistakes, check out one of the training sites and instead of following superstitions or making irrational decisions, trust the math!