From touching a lucky item while playing to crossing their fingers and toes when making bets, almost every poker player has at least one superstition.
These superstitions have become an essential part of the poker culture over the decades, so much so that they have found their place even among those who have never played the game.
And, while some poker pros won’t admit it outright, you can see it by their signature piece of clothing, the way they stack their chips, or their favorite card protector that they always carry around.
While there’s no physical evidence that any of these actions will stack the cards in your favor, these superstitions have found commonplace in the poker world and are equally present in Texas Hold’em tournaments and at cash game tables.
Always Wearing the Same Clothes
Many of the top poker pros are recognizable for their prevalent and consistent styling choices. In truth, there’s no telling if players choose to wear the same clothes due to superstitions or if that’s just their style.
But, nothing is stopping you from playing an amusing game to figure it out – if you see a poker pro playing in the same shirt or hoodie he won a major tournament a decade ago, you can confidently say that he’s trying to put himself in the exact situation to win big again.
This superstition can often take up a gross form, as some players tend to take it to a whole different level.
There’s a common saying that wearing dirty clothes can help you get rid of bad luck. Some players push this to the limit, never washing a shirt years after winning a major career tournament.
While it’s hard to determine from the other side of the screen, you can often figure it out by the facial expressions of other players around the table.
While on the topic of wearing the same clothes, you can also notice that some players always wear a red clothing item.
This color is seen as lucky, particularly among players with Asian roots, and many casino websites targeting Asian markets abound in red elements.
This is because, in Chinese culture, the color red is closely tied with wealth and good fortune. Brides even wear red at their weddings, instead of the white dresses we’re used to in western culture.
Sticking to the Same Tournament Menu
As much as wearing the same item of clothing is a widespread practice among poker players, so is eating a particular type of food or always having the same drink at the table.
And, as it happens, superstitions-friendly food is seldom healthy.
Did you make it through day two at a WSOP event for the first time after having an impromptu breakfast at McDonald’s? Then it’s settled. You’re eating McD’s every time before a big tournament.
In the old days, you could find many poker players smoking a specific brand or type of cigar at the table, claiming it brings them good luck.
But as poker rooms and casinos started banning the use of cigars and cigarettes, players have adjusted their superstitions to other, more environmentally-friendly beliefs they can find at the buffet.
Even with the smoking ban in place at most venues, you will still find some players with an unlit cigarette hanging out of the corner of their mouth. This is partially a superstition and partially just a way to calm the nerves between the breaks.
Stacking chips in a Particular Pattern
Although there are certain standards and guides for stacking chips, you’re pretty much free to stack your chips in any form or shape you want.
Some players take this liberty to create weird stacks based on their superstition or some unfounded belief based on previous success.
For example, some players like stacking chips in alternating color patterns. Others prefer setting the chips always in particular positions in the exact same distance from between their higher and lower valued chip stacks.
Unique chip stacking practices and superstitions aren’t as prevalent today as they were in the past.
This is mainly because of the newer generation of players, who have developed their styles playing online poker and don’t pay that much attention to this aspect of the game when playing live tournaments.
Never Counting Chips while at the Table
Ever since Kenny Rodgers released his song “The Gambler” in 1978, poker players have been clinging to the lyrics of this iconic song:
“You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table.”
Over the decades, players have interpreted this line never to count the chips while playing the game, not even when actively involved in a poker hand.
However, this is one superstition that can actually be very detrimental to those who follow it blindly. Sure, it sounds cool when Kenny says it, but you shouldn’t cling to his words at all times.
Knowing how many chips you have in front of you is an integral part of the game, so try to avoid falling into this belief.
You should also be the person that counts everyone’s chips in your head. Figuring out whether you have your opponents covered will allow you to play better.
Mascots and Lucky Items
Many well-known poker players carry a good luck charm everywhere they play. The most famous example of this is Johnny Chan, a 10-time WSOP bracelet winner and one of the best poker players of all time.
Aside from his massive successes in the 80s and 90s, Johnny Chan is known for having a very unusual lucky charm – an orange.
An orange made the first appearance at the 1988 WSOP, and having booked the win in that tournament, he’s been doing it ever since.
Even though he’s well into his sixties and doesn’t play that much anymore, if you ever see Johnny Chan around a poker table, you can bet he’s carrying an orange with him. If you don’t see it, ask him about it, and he’ll likely produce one.
Although no one exactly replicated Chan’s orange lucky charm, many players who followed him had a similar mindset of carrying a lucky item.
There have been many quirky players who adopted this superstition, from carrying stuffed animals to pictures of loved ones.
If you’ve been watching poker on TV, you’re probably aware of Humberto Brenes and his lucky shark card protector.
Do Poker Superstitions Actually Work?
Serious poker players know that their success at the table depends primarily on their skill and the ability to make the right decisions under pressure.
However, even some of the best often have certain superstitions they cling to.
It’s not likely that they truly believe that having a particular item on the table or wearing a specific shirt will help them win. But it can’t hurt, either.
The thing with superstitions is that they can help boost your confidence. If you’ve been running bad in a tournament, pulling out your lucky charm can help you make the much-needed stance and go for a double-up instead of slowly bleeding your stack away.
While a stuffed animal or a pendant won’t influence the mathematical odds, they can definitely confuse your opponents and make them believe you’re just a “fish” and a gambler.
If that causes them to make wrong decisions, you can say that your superstition helped you win!
Ivan has been playing poker since his early 20s, both live and online, and has spent several years making a living grinding away at the felt. He combined that with a passion for writing and now creates top-notch poker and gambling-related content.