Somewhere in the online
poker universe, a player just called an all-in bet with a far inferior hand. While this could be a potentially upsetting
revelation for plenty of poker players, the person who called off his/her chips with an under pair sees little reason to
worry… because the 2-outer is coming on the Turn or the River. As the winning card draws nearer, sweaty palms begin to
squeeze a “lucky” portrait or token; and our beloved fool shouts “Come on, Baby… Hit me one time!”, as if collecting energy
from some supernatural force. The River card indeed brings fortune, and our player shrieks with joy. Just as the virtual pot
is being raked, the winner types in the chat box… “I never fold 22 because that’s the day I was born!”
It boggles my mind the way many people still rely on superstitions and “gut-feelings” to encourage good poker luck at the tables.
Don’t get me wrong, if you feel more comfortable playing with a good-luck charm, then there’s nothing wrong with having it
close by. But the moment you purposely put yourself in a negative situation due to some belief or reliance on “outside forces”
is the moment your poker game loses its soul.
The fact is that nothing can stop the long-term statistical behavior of numbers. Chanted rituals, lucky charms, hocus-pocus
manipulation… even divine intervention are no match for reality. However, many superstitious players focus on short-term events
as if they were instrumental in determining one’s long-term success
at the tables. Not ironically, these are some of the same clowns who put things like “Professional Bingo/Lottery Player” on their
credit application when requesting a high-interest loan.
There are quite a few options a person has at his/her disposal to become a winning poker player. You don’t necessarily have to
be a mathematical genius, methodical bean counter, or hyper-aggressive bully to find long-term success at the game. What you DO
have to possess is a basic understanding of how percentages of probability play a key role in deciding long-term winners and losers.
Here’s a simple example: Suppose we have a coin, and you place a bet with a poker player that gives him/her $1.00 for every time
the coin lands on Heads; and gives you $1.20 for every time the coin lands on Tails. This is a great deal for you – your overall
long-term Return on Investment expectation is + $.10 per toss. As a matter of fact, you want this coin to be flipped as many times
as possible. It makes absolutely no difference if your opponent hits ‘Heads’ five times in a row, 8 times out of 10, or 65 times
out of 100… as long as he/she is willing to concede those same terms each and every time the coin is flipped. The only concern you
need to worry yourself about is having enough dollars to cover these short-term fluctuations until the numbers inevitably take
care of themselves.
Poker players who rely on superstitions have no desire to bother themselves with such trivial things as effort. If you hang around
the online poker community long enough, you’ll eventually be graced by wisdom from all sorts of nutty characters who spend their
entire poker career (and bankroll) on positive karma and algorithm infiltration strategies. Many of these bozos are able to cite
collegiate-level logarithmic equations that rival even the most complicated Tournament Leader Board formulas; but never manage to
find poker skill. They can read palms, study the alignment of the stars, and invoke power from all zodiac signs; yet they can not
find a way to beat the game – and are left with hopelessly burdening other similar-minded dullards with their mental fodder.
Poker has nothing to do with luck. As my co-host Adam Small is so fond of saying, you can get lucky or unlucky, but poker luck is not
something a player can possess. Once you’ve seen over ½ million hands (like most of us who multi-table online have), you gain
a unique perspective on just how unimportant short-term results are.
It may sound as if I dislike playing against these types of players, but I pity them more than anything else. The truth is they
represent some of the easiest money in the game, simply because they’re willing to put money in the pot in such a manner that
(ironically) encourages short-term failure at a higher rate than all others. These guys/gals wander into poker rooms after getting
hammered at the slots, bingo halls, or racetracks because their ego needs a different vice. But the rewards one receives from poker
directly correspond to how much respect, hard work, and dedication one puts into it – not how much luck a person can or can’t
receive in a session or a lifetime.
Personally, I’m not very fond of giving “answers” when it comes to poker (or anything else) because I feel they’re usually overrated
or incorrect. But if you’ve come this far without grasping the concept of this article, I’ll part with this truth: Poker is not a
game for those who are lazy, unmotivated, or easily discouraged. Carefully consider any advice you get from those who seem to have
all the answers… it’s possible they’ve taken the easy path to becoming a losing player.
So the next time you’re about to call off all your chips as an obvious huge underdog just because your pocket cards represent your
“lucky” number, take a moment to consider what your goal in poker really is. Is this the best you can do? Leave the incense, rain
dances, and week-old undergarments to the attention-starved weirdoes who specialize in losing. Keep the common-sense approach to
winning at poker for yourself and remember that it's bad luck to be superstitious.