Your alarm goes off and you snooze it exactly three times and force yourself out of bed on the fourth ring. Take nine steps to the shower and stay in there for exactly nine minutes. Everyone knows that the number three is one of the luckiest numbers so three times three has to be lucky, right? Nine steps back to the bedroom and you put on the lucky red socks, the old ones kept safe right at the bottom of the drawer. Go downstairs and take out the cracked cup, the one nobody else wants to use but you know the power it wields. Sit down at the computer at exactly nine o'clock and enrol to the poker tournament. It’s going to be your lucky day again. So why did you go through this unusual, obsessive, compulsive routine? Because that’s how you’re going to win the big prize.
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There are poker players who have to sit in a certain seat, or will play or not play certain hands because they deem them to be lucky or unlucky. Many poker players the world over consider two pairs of aces and eights to be unlucky and call it the dead man’s hand. This comes from a story about an old gambler in the Wild West who was shot dead while clutching this hand. Another famous poker player, Doyle Brunson, is well known for always playing a ten and a two as if they were a strong top pair. Even though his chances of winning with this hand are statistically slim, he won two major tournaments with it and believes it to be extremely lucky.
Superstitions get stronger as well when they appear to pay off. A gambler may do something in a specific way before winning a big pot and this serves to add support to the belief about the need to do the superstitious ritual. This is positive reinforcement, and it can make these behaviours very hard to break.
It is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Some studies have shown that believing in something to be lucky can actually create ‘luck’. Derren Brown did an experiment about luck where he planted the idea that there was a lucky dog statue in a town where the people believed themselves to be unlucky. After they became convinced that patting the dog’s head was lucky then their fortunes began to change. This was all down to an idea that helped them think in a more positive way. See a clip about this below. So to all you superstitious players out there, there’s no reason for you to give up your rituals, just try not to let them get too out of control when you play your poker game, or any other casino games for that matter!