It’s all in your head, and that’s good

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Many players are superstitious. For example, some have disdain for $50 bills while others may believe a certain dealer is a jinx. A few players actually leave the table when one of those dealers arrives at the table. I’m more concerned with dealers who aren’t paying attention, comment on play or make mistakes.

I spoke with one player who believes in the “jinx.” I tried to explain there are many factors why that dealer seems like a bad luck charm. At the top of my list was self-fulfilling prophecy: We think something is going to happen and then we make it happen, usually subconsciously.

We think this dealer is a jinx and always lose when he deals so we start playing tighter or looser, but make more mistakes because we’re on edge. We don’t bet our premium hands because we “know” the dealer will deal the river suckout. So the person who sucks out never got any pressure to fold. We get a less-than-premium hand and overbet it preflop because we “know” what’s coming. So our opponents fold to our all-in, $500 preflop bet and we stack the blinds for $7. We “know” the dealer is a jinx and we start giving off more tells.

On the other hand, here comes my lucky dealer. I get a bit of a rush, so I get more aggressive and I get the weaker hand to fold and lessen the chance of turn or river suckout. I look more confident in my game, other people pick that up and don’t challenge me as much, then without that pressure I can limp or check-raise with weaker hands that sometimes flop well.

There are many more examples of the jinx-lucky dealer. It turns out to make some sense, not because of superstition but because or what we do to make it happen.

Though there’s no empirical evidence that $50 bills are bad luck, but there’s really no down side to taking different denominations.
And if you have a lucky dealer, be lucky and it may help you win. If you have jinx dealers, maybe try to analyze your behavior when they deal to you.

Remember, some people think poker is a card game played by people and some think poker is a people game played with cards. I am in the latter category. Analysis of your behavior and how others react to you is a much better mode of operation at the table than superstition.
And as always, keep your head in the game.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com.