My mother always told me that ol’ Scratch loves himself a game of poker on occasion and that the almighty allowed it most times because there wasn’t any harm in lettin’ people gamble away their hard-earned money if they were gonna act like fools and bet on a less than sure thing. My old man was kind of the same mind, but unlike my mother, he liked to buck the odds when it came to a good ol’ game of Texas Hold ‘Em.
Where Did Texas Hold ‘Em Originate?
Unless you are a Texan born and raised then you might want to say something stupid like ‘the origins of the game are murky and blah, blah, blah. But trust me, and trust the Texans when we say that it came from this state. In Robstown, this thinking man’s game was devised. It’s funny that no one appears to even give a bit of credit to the birthplace of a game that’s gone on to become such a big deal. But then, people are more worried about spectacle these days than the idea of where something came from. Anyway, I’m ramblin’ like I usually do, but let’s get into it.
Some folks don’t want to think that superstition or luck plays into the game, that it’s all about out-thinkin’ your opponent, and they’re not wrong. I mean, they’re not wrong about out-thinkin’ their opponent, but they’d be dead wrong about it not being about superstition and luck, since there’s plenty of that unless you’re a damned card counter, and that, to me, is lower than a greased chicken trying to tap dance its way off of a Crisco runway leading to a fryer. It’s humor, just go with it.
Everyone has their own set of superstitions and ways of keeping themselves safe in the eyes of the poker gods. My mother would smack me upside the head for saying such a thing since to her there’s only one big man upstairs, but there may as well be one version of ol’ Scratch and a legion of those that carry a little piece of him to every gaming table in the world. I was four years old when she taught me that, and hellfire and damnation if I wasn’t afraid to even come near a gambling table until I was nearly 20 years old. In fact, I do believe I peed myself when I took my first trip to Vegas. It was awful, but once I’d changed my britches and realized my mother wasn’t there to slap the holy hell out of me for gambling like my fool of a father, who she divorced when I was still a teen, I started paying attention.
There are plenty of superstitions when it comes to Texas Hold ‘Em, as I found out such as seeing three 6’s on the flop is a sure sign that ol’ Scratch is watching and waiting to see who’s bold enough to keep playing. Some folks will fold immediately, while others will just grin and keep playing. My mother would have gladly taken a willow switch to such folks on basic principle.
Here are just a few others that people tend to watch out for:
It doesn’t look like a bad hand, especially if one or two other Jacks pop up at one point during the game. But it’s such an overplayed hand that many people avoid it and will fold or bet conservatively.
Aces and Eights
Because it’s said that this is the hand when Wild Bill Hickock was holding right before he was killed, it’s considered a bad omen of things to come. But seriously, if you’re looking at a pot and a full house like this then trust your instincts. Just don’t be sad if “stink” is the only thing your instincts are good for.
Look, we all understand the idea of ‘lucky’ clothes, but if this involves not washing them for a period of time, this is a superstition that it’s best to abandon since no one wants to smell your funky, missed laundry day ass.
Sex Before Poker?
In some events, it’s considered better to NOT have sex before one goes and does something strenuous. But a lot of poker players think that their skill is enhanced by a bit of the horizontal mambo the night before.
The Lucky Charm Does No Harm
It shouldn’t be surprising that everyone has something they consider their ‘lucky charm’. The only thing to watch for is if someone happens to bring their wife, girlfriend, or lady for the night as their lucky charm, since it might work just fine at other games, but at Texas Hold ‘Em that lady, or guy, (hey it’s the 20s after all), needs to park their butts well away from the table and exude their luck from a distance. Otherwise, a charm, a ring, or even a lucky shirt or pair of shoes might be just fine so long as they’re not wired in any way. Ever seen the movie ‘Casino’? Yeah, casinos might not kneecap people these days, but there’s nothing to say that a game held in an Eagles club or anywhere else will be so nice. Make sure your lucky charm is there for your emotional support and isn’t bound to give you an unfair advantage, or you might end up leaving without a body part, be it a tooth or a pinky, or something else depending on what happens.
The Poker Gods
Now let’s get this straight, you can pray to any god you want and call them a poker god, but people praying to Jesus and the Father is something my mother would slap the devil out of me for. Ol’ Scratch hears those prayers and grins because he knows the odds are in his favor, as my dad would say, but people praying to their deities can get downright silly. But to be real, here are just a few of the deities whose names I’ve heard at the tables in the past:
It’s not all that hard to think that we have people that look to Greek deities since we’ve taken just about everything else from other parts of the world. But with a name that aligns with ‘fortune’ one can’t help but guess that people are going to look on this deity as Lady Luck personified. The only thing is, as a lot of people have found out over the years, the lady is a fickle one, and if a person doesn’t show her a smile or a lick of gratitude then it’s likely that she’ll huff and puff and, well, she’ll let ol’ Scratch have his due and then some as she starts handing your winnings over to the competition. Hey, a lady scorned and all that jazz, right?
This is an odd one that I’ve only heard muttered or exclaimed at the tables a few times. I looked the one-eyed god up and he’s a lot different than what Marvel comics would have you believe since he’s a lot of different things, but he doesn’t feel like a good luck symbol. Maybe it’s for the more aggressive players since Odin was a war god after all. It could mean that these players feel like they’re at war with the others and are actively seeking to raid the piles that rest in front of their opponents. I’ll tell you this when a big, muscle-bound, bearded, Viking-look bugger stood up and yelled “ODIN!” after he won, I thought I was about to dump a load in my britches.
Even the obscure deities, like this Irish fella, get a bit of praise now and then since at this point we’ve all heard of the ‘luck o’ the Irish’, yeah? He must be just as fickle as Fortuna though, or perhaps this would-be poker god has a wandering eye like many others since the rate of success for people actually calling on this name is pretty low.
A lot of people cry out ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ and their success is kind of a fickle thing since the good lord must not look too kindly or poorly on gambling. Of course, when their names are being called out frustration or grief, one might almost expect the son of the Almighty to yell back “Whaddaya you want?!”. Good thing my mother isn’t here, I’d be getting a whack upside the head right about now. But when it comes to the poker gods, they’re about as fickle as can be, and while a person’s winning and on a streak it’s usually wise, or at least it’s considered wise, to give a silent ‘thank you’ or at least acknowledge the run for what it is and decide to cash in and move on, or exercise caution and make sure of your bets before they’re made. A poker god can be appreciative of a careful player making wise decisions, but they might decide to turn in disgust from a player that’s too cautious and refuses to take a chance.
There are definitely dos and don’ts when it comes to Texas Hold ‘Em, and funny enough, they can be a part of the superstitions that go into how people play the game. More often than not, etiquette is more or less all about not pissing off the other players, the dealer, and treating the game with respect. Trust me on this, you don’t ever want to disrespect the table since ol’ Scratch is already happy to take your money, but mind me now, he’ll take everything else at the same time if you don’t respect the table. There are a few things that you might want to consider avoiding if you’re playing in a casino or at a house game since guess what, ol’ Scratch or one of his minions is there too. Here are just a few things you might not want to do, just to up the chances that Lady Luck might smile at you instead of rolling her eyes in disgust as she shows you the back of her head.
Always play your turn
If you don’t have the guts or the balls for the game then you shouldn’t be there in the first place, and everyone will see it and know it the first time you refuse to play your turn. Do you want to step up to the big boy’s table? Then drop your nards and play your cards. Otherwise, walk your little baby nuts around the block and disappear.
If you have a problem, talk to the dealer, not the players
The players can’t do a damn thing if there’s something wrong with the game and won’t appreciate you dragging them into your own little bundle of issues. If the dealer won’t do anything then go above them and ask for someone in charge. But chitchat with the players, don’t try to turn them on the dealer, that’s just an itch that karma is waiting to scratch.
DO NOT SPLASH THE POT
You’re not Teddy KGB in ‘Rounders’, and it’s not your club, so don’t splash your chips in the pot unless you’re ready for Lady Luck to turn the tables and give her blessing to your competition.
Be aware of the table and your own cards
Don’t lift your cards too high, don’t act cocky, don’t miss out on a tell that might give you the upper hand. And definitely don’t make it known that you’ve figured out anyone’s tell since again, Lady Luck won’t look kindly on this and will shift things around to make it harder to win. You might laugh, but it’s real enough, since the cockier you get, the less likely the odds are going to fall in your favor. Don’t let your pride promote skills you don’t have.
Watch people get instant karma from the poker gods:
Count on it
Texas Hold ‘Em is a thinking man’s game for certain, but at the same time, one can bet for certain that superstitions and luck play a big part in this game as well. Count on it.