I'm not one to be susceptible to superstition. My mind functions on logic and deductive reasoning, even though from an outside vantage, my deductions are seemingly unreasonable at times. As eccentric as I may be, the concept of arbitrary occurrences or rituals having a defining impact on the result of an unrelated future event is completely ridiculous to me.
What amazes me most about superstition in poker are some of the players who function within it. If a player acts from a mind-set based on luck and outcomes outside of his control, he would most certainly have to believe that poker is nothing more than a game of chance.
Yet I'll find players who know all the stats and who truly believe they are playing a game of skill (which poker is), yet who still fall victim to poker superstition. Without further ado, here are the top 5 most ridiculous poker superstitions:
5) Pocket aces never win. When people say that pocket aces never win, they actually don't mean it. But these people who say it seriously are saying that in the long run, pocket aces lose more money than they earn.
Poker players who are unable to make money with pocket aces should seriously consider stopping, and relearning the game from scratch. Take a look at the by-hand statistics of any average to good player (with a large sample size of total hands), and every single one of them will have a positive number for results exclusively from pocket aces.
Every single winning poker player I've ever talked to has shown pocket aces as being the consistent No. 1 money earner over time. The results mirror the statistics, in that pocket aces should always be your most profitable hand.
4) A player showing AA at showdown in one hand is less likely to have it the next hand. This concept is not so much superstition as a complete misunderstanding of the rules of probability. I've seen many players try to figure out what to do in a given situation and base their final decision on the logic that their opponent had pocket aces last hand; therefore chances are they don't have it again this hand.
It can't be said enough times: cards have no memory. The cards have no idea what hand you had last hand, and they don't know what hand you'll have next hand. On the current deal, your chances of being deal pocket aces are 1/220. If you are dealt pocket aces in one hand, your odds of getting pocket aces when the next deal starts is exactly 1/220.
The mistake is a simple one to make. The odds of being dealt pocket aces back to back, in two predefined subsequent hands, are incredibly low (1/48,400 to be exact), even though the odds of being dealt aces in each of these two individual hands never change.
Take flipping a coin, for example: The odds of you getting a result of "heads" twice in a row is 25% (as long as you're evaluating before the first flip). Even though your chance of having a result of heads is exactly 50-50 on each flip. After the first flip is heads, you're exactly 50-50 to get the same result.
3) Every time you get it all-in against a draw, the draw hits. I'm really not sure why I have to explain this superstition. But the more I play, the more I hear people claiming things just like this. Being 60% to win means you're going to win slightly more than half the time. Players who make this claim might be forgetting about every time they win, and brooding over every loss. It's natural to do so, but that doesn't mean the myth is valid: a draw will hit exactly as often as it's statistically supposed to (give or take some short-term variance).
2) Pocket jacks is the worst hand in poker. Again, the people who make this claim actually mean "Pocket jacks is the hand I misplay the most in poker." The hand itself is a powerhouse, a solid top 5 starting hand. It just happens to be one of the most difficult hands to play consistently well in a tough game.
Just because you're not sure how to use tiptronic shifting doesn't mean the Ferrari is a horrible car. Pocket jacks have the potential to make you more money than almost any other starting hand. The difficulty lies in playing them appropriately.
If you're looking for pointers on how to play pocket jacks, check out this three-part article.
1) It's not possible to make money against bad poker players. "Bad poker players are impossible to bluff, making the game nothing but luck." Unless you're at a table where every player goes to every river every hand, without any exceptions, you're mistaken. In fact, the worse the players are at the tables, the more money you have the ability to make.
Honestly, this statement doesn't even make sense. How good a player is at poker is purely determined by the long-term results. Therefore, if you always make money against certain players, by definition you must be a better player than they are. If you're the good, this makes them the bad.
If you're sitting with players who are "better than you," this means that they make more money than you do over the long run. If all the players make more money than you, and you only play with these same players, they extra money they make has to be coming from you.
If you're beating the game, you're better than the players. The greater the gap between your skill and the skill of your opponents, the quicker you will crush the game, and the larger the degree to which you'll do so.
When I hear this rationale, I can't help but wonder if the player using it is unable to beat the game they're at, and is looking for an excuse that doesn't involve taking a realistic look at their own aptitude. Don't let this be you.
Unless you're Phil Ivey, there will always be a game you can't beat. If you find yourself losing in a game, come to terms with the fact that, at this time, it may be a game you simply cannot beat.
Even if your skill is better than all the others at the table, these players might have an uncanny ability to only outplay you.
Whatever the reason, if you're not beating a game, go find a new one. If it really is the only game in town, then take some time off to reevaluate your play and come back with a new set of gears and a new bag of tricks.
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