Poker Superstitions

Poker superstitions are a real problem for poker players. If you are going to be serious about being a long term wining poker player you need to throw away all the superstitions that poker will naturally predispose you toward. I was watching some TV poker show the other day when an interesting conversation occurred between Eli Elezra and Tom Dwan. Basically, Phil Ivey was stuck some money at the poker table and then proceeded to leave the game. Eli and Tom Dwan were discussing what they perceived Phil Ivey’s reason was for leaving the game. Eli suggested that Phil knows when the cards are “running cold” and just walks away. Tom completely disagreed with Eli , saying that Phil would never leave a game based on a superstition like that. He argued that Phil is a top quality pro who is more than capable of playing a good game of poker even when he is stuck. His decision to leave the poker game was independent of his running bad. Tom was right!

Poker Superstitions Distract From What Really Matters 

Coming and going from poker games depending on if you “feel” the cards are cold or hot is absolute pure and utter nonsense. The only thing that should determine whether or not you are playing in a game is…

1) If you are playing good poker
2) If you have an edge over the game
3) The size of your bankroll.

Six Common Poker Superstitions 

1) Quit while you are ahead. Unfortunately, this is often very poor advice since many players play some of their best poker during a winning session. If you are a player who plays worse when winning then this might be decent advice.

2) Some nights you will lose no matter what, so just quit. In my experience some of my greatest comebacks happen when I continued playing against very soft competition even when empted to leave due to bad luck.

3) Online poker games are rigged. No, online games are generally not rigged (at least by the house). If you are losing you probably aren’t playing well enough to overcome the rake. . I do have some issues with anonymous poker games as I have written about before.

4) Play a hot run. Opening your range is problematic if it results in a negative expected value play. It can be easy to justify negative ev plays as ok during a hot run. Widening your range is ok if your opponents are sufficiently off their games – your expected payoff from making hands will be larger.

5) Tighten up if you are losing. This is similar to the ^ but on the other side of the coin. Unless you are playing worse because of losses then you should probably be playing similar ranges. However, if your image is super nitty that will reduce your implied odds and you should open a tighter range both pre-flop and post-flop.

6) Live poker is tougher than online poker because your opponent can see you. In fact, live poker is a much easier game to win at than online poker and win rates are generally higher live.

Final Thoughts

Its difficult to stay focused and not lose clarity of vision and decision making when you are losing. Setting a stop loss can be appropriate if you struggle to identify moments in time where you are not playing high quality poker. Some players struggle in real time to notice their “tilt”. Keep in mind that just because your win-rate is 3BB/100 over 500,000 hands doesn’t mean you are a winner at every moment in time. It is possible that at certain points within those 500,000 hands you were playing as a loser. If you had cut those our your win-rate could have been 4BB/100

Its important to keep poker superstitions from having a negative effect on your winrate. Win rates depend on skill level, hands played, and stake level played at. Assuming you are not tilting or tired, the win-rate or loss-rate will not change over time. I can’t help but laugh every time I hear these absurd “truisms” of poker spoken and then repeated. Save your poker superstitions for roulette – poker is primarily a game of skill.

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  2. thepokercapitalist says:

    Glad it was helpful! Thanks for the kind words

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