Weird professional poker player rituals
People always believe in something. These superstitious beliefs may seem odd at first glance, but who are way to judge what keeps people going?
Friday the 13th? It’s not just a movie. We actually erect buildings without a 13th floor. Some airlines omit a thirteenth row. Why? It’s believed (here we go) that this superstition originated with the Last Supper, when Judas Iscariot was the 13th guest.
Black cats? Never mind that cats are naturally weird (change my mind), black cats are rumored to have scared the bejeezus out of Hitler and Napoleon. Apparently, witches in the Middle Ages kept black cats as companions. Modern witches drive black BMWs. No one knows why.
Spilled the salt? Do you toss it over your left or right shoulder? (it’s left) For most of history, a common superstition was that salt could purify the soul and drive away evil spirits. These days it just raises your blood pressure.
Logic tells us that if people are weird, and poker players are people, then poker players are weird. Especially the pros.
Poker is certainly a game of luck and skill, but sometimes the luck part of that truism overrides everything and poker players, like some pro athletes (ask Sidney Crosby about his peanut butter sandwiches), engage in some very strange rituals. We’re not here to criticize them or make fun of them because they have made fortunes playing a game we love. We know that winning at poker requires skill, strategies and luck, but maybe there’s something to this superstition thing. Check out these four professional players. What do they know that you and I don’t?
Sammy Farha is well known in the poker world. He’s won multiple WSOP titles and his net worth is estimated at more than $100 million. Farha’s instantly recognizable look is the unlit cigarette permanently clenched between his lips. A lifelong non-smoker whose lucky cigarette never leaves his mouth when he’s at the table is a winner of epic proportions.
Farha swears that his magical smoke gave him that extra luck to reach the final table of the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Over his career, he has won three bracelets at the WSOP. Farha has also finished in the money in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship – once for $75,000 and another time for $125,000. He also has three cashes in World Poker Tour events for a little over $100,000.
Take note: when Farha loses a hand, he immediately switches to another unlit cigarette.
Johnny Chan has ten WSOP bracelets. Beyond his notable skills at the poker table, his luck comes from the orange that sits near his stack of chips. This strange ritual first started in the days before the smoking ban, when the cigarette smoke got too thick in the air, Chan would then lift his orange up to his nose and inhale deeply to clear his sinuses.
At the age of 21, Chan dropped out of the University of Houston and moved to Las Vegas to become a professional gambler. His first live casino experience came before his 21st birthday. When he was 16, Chan managed to buy in for a cash game in Las Vegas, allegedly turning $500 into $20,000 in one night, before losing all of it the next day.
In 1987 and 1988, Chan won the WSOP twice, becoming the first foreign national to win the main event. Afterward, Chan makes a cameo appearance in a movie, with a video of his 1988 WSOP final heads-up match which was featured in the movie Rounders.
In 1998, when Chan won the WSOP main event, the orange became a symbol of good luck and now has a permanent role in his poker ritual.
Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson is an old-school poker legend. He’s always said he is not superstitious – until he started speaking to his card protector Casper the Friendly Ghost. Brunson first started conversing with this poker spirit as a joke, asking for luck. Seems that Casper could fulfill every request.
Brunson is the first player to win $1 million in poker tournaments. Also, he is one of only four players to have won the Main Event at the World Series of Poker multiple times. He won this Main Event back to back in 1976 and 1977. He is one of only three players to have won WSOP tournaments in four consecutive years. Plus, he’s the first of six players to win both the WSOP Main Event and a World Poker Tour title. Casper really is friendly.
Other players noticed Brunson whispering to his ghost and wanted some of that magic. But Brunson is also a businessman. He seized the opportunity and started renting his poltergeist for 30 minutes for $500. (next article: gullibility)
After retiring in 2018, Brunson sold Casper to fellow poker pro Howard Lederer for $3,500. However, Brunson maintains possession of the charm (and his wits apparently) until his passing, and only then will it be passed on to Howard in Doyle’s will.
After watching the Main Event and High Stakes Poker on German TV, Heinz started casually playing a few poker games with his friends. Realizing that poker was a game of skill, he immersed himself in studying the subject. He then won a Full Tilt Poker Sunday Mulligan in 2010 and a PokerStars $150,000 tournament in 2011. Just playing online, he has won over $700,000.
Pius Heinz’s ritual is a nod to those athletes who believe in lucky jerseys, hats, underwear, socks… except for Pius, it’s his ever-present, probably threadbare, white hoodie. Just like those superstitious athletes, he believes that if you win a game in a big way, don’t change the winning formula. Even if only one strand of cotton is filled with luck, that’s better than none.
Pius Heinz wore the same white hoodie for the entirety of the 2011 Main Event. By the time he reached the final table, half the room behind him was wearing the same style to support their man at the table.
What’s your ritual?
We can all agree that rituals and superstitions are silly. But after applying your skill and strategies, getting a winning poker hand also requires luck. Where does your luck come from? Is it a rabbit’s foot (cruel)? A four-leaf clover? A chimney sweep (for you Mary Poppins fans)? Horse shoe? Almost anything qualifies and doesn’t change a thing if you’re winning. Until you’re not. Then you can move on to the next ritual.
Put your superstitions and rituals to the ultimate test by playing poker at Ignition casino!