Strangely Superstitious Player Rituals

We’ve heard of rugby players with lucky underpants and OCD tennis players who go to the towel between every point, but it’s hard to imagine a pastime more riddled with superstition than casino games.

In fact, it’s hard to find a seasoned card, table or slots player who doesn’t have at least one superstitious ritual that he or she never forgoes before or during the game. Whether these activities are really an attempt to charm Lady Luck or simply a means to stay in the “zone” and maintain concentration probably varies from player to player, but they certainly make for some interesting spectatorship for the discerning onlooker.

Here are a few of the most common (and famous) gambling rituals for you to look out for (or perhaps adopt yourself) the next time you are in the casino.

Lucky Charms

Lucky charms are the most common form of superstition and also generally the most noticeable in the casino. They are particularly favored by poker players, who are perhaps the most serious about their game of all gamblers. It is one of the things that make the World Series of Poker to entertaining.

WSOP stalwart, Doyle Brunson famously carries a small black rock named Casper to the table with him for luck. And it’s not just Brunson who buys into the belief that Casper brings him luck. Other players are prepared to pay a pretty penny to rent the rock, which bears the Ghostbusters logo, from Brunson between games.

Another common superstitious practice among famous poker players has to do with cigarettes. Big Wig, Sam Farha can always be seen with an unlit cigarette in his mouth, despite the fact that he doesn’t actually smoke. He even goes so far as to change cigarettes whenever he loses a pot.

Meanwhile, what began as a simple means to combat the odour of cigarette smoke at the WSOP table, became a superstitious mainstay for one of poker’s best-known players, Johnny Chan. Chan is now never seen without his lucky orange at the table.

Physical Actions

A subtler form of casino rituals that is thought to brought luck to move one’s body in a particular way or perform a specific action, some of which you may recognize from everyday life. Some of the most popular physical rituals considered lucky by gamblers include blowing on the dice (which is often done by the player’s pretty date), crossing one’s fingers, calling a card or number out loud, kissing one’s date before rolling the dice, knocking on wood, and stacking chips in a particular order.

Lucky Numbers and Colours

Even the most level-headed of us may shy away from the number 13 – in fact, many hotels don’t even have a 13th floor, skipping straight from 12 to 14. The same superstition applies in gambling. Similarly, the colour black is often considered to be unlucky, perhaps because it is frequently associated with death and mourning.

Meanwhile, seven is considered to be a very lucky number, which is why the biggest win on a slot machine was traditionally a triple seven combination. Red is also considered to be a lucky colour, especially by Chinese players.

In addition, many non-Western cultures have their own numbers or sets of numbers that are believed to bring either good or bad fortune.

Chip or Money Counting

As the Kenny Rogers song goes, “you never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table”. Many players consider it to be extremely bad luck to count your chips or cash while you are playing. In poker, this practice may also have a more practical application in that players may believe that it is a tell that lets other players know what kind of card you’re holding.