There is one thing that every poker player knows about and that’s luck—lucky cards, the luck of the draw, pure luck. Why has luck been described as a Lady? It could be derived from the ancient Goddess Fortuna who ruled fortune and chance. The Romans held great festivals in her honor; her temple was even called “Good Luck.” Fortuna could only be placated by cards, counters and dice. It’s no surprise that she gave birth to a child named Gaming.
The formal definition of luck is a chance happening of good or bad events. Some people don’t believe in luck and feel that it’s merely preparation meeting opportunity. In poker, that’s probably truer than in life. Big wins from a newcomer can be explained away as beginner’s luck but the more advanced players know it takes more than catching good cards to keep them at the top of their game. Still, some players admit having used lucky charms. World Poker Tour host Vince Van Patten is one who has beliefs about luck when it comes to poker. He has said that if he loses in a particular shirt, he won’t wear it again. He considers wearing jeans in a game unlucky since he’s never had any good luck at the poker table when he wore them.
Most people in show business succeed because they’re talented but they also believe in luck. This is apparent in the number of celebrities that carried lucky charms during the games on Celebrity Poker Showdown. Michael Ian Black kept tossing an autographed picture of magician David Copperfield into the pot. The executive producer of the show, Andrew Newman, relates that others who relied on charms were Dule Hill, Kathy Najimy, Bryan Cranston, and Shannon Elizabeth. Host Phil Gordon remembers someone bringing a pink elephant to the set and has seen pros put pictures of their wife or kids on the rail. Phil himself doesn’t have a lucky charm. His personal feeling is that the harder he works the more luck he has.
Why do people hold to the notion that a lucky charm will help them win at poker? It’s simple. They believe it will. It helps them to be more confident. It helps them focus. It keeps them calm. They feel that there is some force outside of their own making things happen. This gives them confidence in their play. If a person sits down at the table and wins a mother lode of money and he happens to have his frog money clip with him that night, the win might be attributed in part to that object.
The four leaf clover is one of the best known talismans in the West. According to legend, Eve carried a four leaf clover from the Garden of Eden. The leaves are sometimes said to stand for faith, hope, love, and luck.. In 1620, Sir John Melton wrote: “If a man walking in the fields find any four-leaved grass he shall, in a small while after, find some good thing.” The horseshoe, another common lucky charm, has a religious origin. Some say it is associated with St. Martin of Tours, aka San Martin Caballero, who traveled by horseback and had some good luck on the road. Others claim it comes from St. Dunstan, a blacksmith by trade, who nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof. The Devil was only allowed to go once he had promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door.
Why is a rabbit’s foot lucky? The manner in which rabbits run gave birth to the superstition about rabbit’s feet. Their unusual stride makes the back feet touch the ground ahead of their front feet, so the back feet were considered especially lucky. So the story goes.
Today, you can find your own good fortune on the internet. Catherine Yronwoode has assembled the Lucky W Amulet Archive which is an illustrated lucky charms and amulets. Among those you’ll see there are good luck coins, rabbits’ feet, money spiders, hand washes, magnetic scotty dogs, all-seeing eyes and even the Powerful Hand of God. They also have mojo bags used in hoo-doo, a cross between African American and American Indian root magic. The poker mojo is filled with good luck ingredients: a little pyrite or fools gold, an alligator foot, a badger tooth, cinnamon and mint. Some of the formulas date back 200 years. Check out the herbal formula that players use to wash their hands before a game. A popular one is the Gambler’s Gold Lucky Seven Hand Wash, a special blend of seven herbs reputed to bring luck. You brew it up as a tea, then strain off the liquid and wash your hands in it before going to play. The herbs included in this mixture are Chamomile, Calendula, Coriopsis, Alfalfa, Irish Moss, Cinnamon Chips, and Allspice Berries—all of which are said to bring monetary good fortune or at least to drive away poverty. If you visit the website, they’ll prepare a lucky charm especially for you. www.luckymojo.com
So, what’s the truth about lucky charms? Keep using one if it works for you but don’t go on emotional tilt if you run into a losing streak. Poker, like life, has its ups and downs. Belief is the key. If you believe something works, it probably will but don’t stop trying to improve your game no matter what you may believe. The bottom line is that luck is only part of the story. Poker is still very much a game of skill.
This article was originally published in Woman Poker Player print publication.
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Each four leaf clover is discovered in the wild to ensure its magic, uniqueness, and good fortune. Each key ring has an uniquely visible "vein print" identify. No two are alike.
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