4 Strange Rituals of the Poker Elite
Poker players are a superstitious lot.
Every player, from the fishiest fish to the proiest pro has their own ritual. Whether you take measures to ensure no black cats cross your path or fast the night before, it can’t be as weird as these guys!
Sammy Farha should be well known to anyone with a penchant for poker, having won multiple WSOP titles and with a whopping net worth of over $100 million. What makes Farha instantly recognizable is the unlit cigarette permanently pursed in his lips. Farha has been a lifelong non-smoker but the ‘lucky’ smoke never leaves his mouth while he’s at the felt. Farha goes on to swear that the magical cigarette gave him the extra pinch of luck he needed to reach the final table of the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Hearing that a high level poker players keeps to superstitions isn’t exactly news to write home about; stick with what got you to the dance. Also as an Irish man, I’m no stranger to a pinch of salt over the shoulder and a dance around the maypole at Lughnasa but get this – if Farha loses a hand, he will immediately switch to another cigarette!
Johnny Chan is a Chinese-born American poker player with ten WSOP bracelets to his name. Johnny’s claim to fame, outside of his skills at the felt, is the orange that sits near his stack at the table. The strange ritual first started in the days before the smoking ban, Chan would lift the orange up to his nose when the cigarette smoke got too thick in the air and inhale deeply to clear his sinuses, but in 1998 when Chan won the WSOP main event, the orange became a symbol of good luck and now has a permanent role in his poker ritual.
The most famous of the players in this list, Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson is an old school poker legend. Doyle has always claimed not to be a superstitious man, that was until he started speaking to his card protector Casper. The small ornament is decorated with said friendly ghost, Brunson first started conversing with this poker poltergeist as a joke, requesting luck and good tidings. Strangely, it seemed as though Casper was fulfilling his every request! Other players began to notice Brunson whispering to the ghost and wanted in on the magic. Brunson, ever the shrewd businessman, saw the opportunity and put his phantom friend up for rent. Players could rent the card protector for 30 minutes for the paltry sum of $500! Casper still sits with Brunson at the tables but has been sold to fellow poker pro Howard Lederer for $3,500. The caveat is that Brunson keeps the charm in his possession until such a time as his passing, and then it will be passed on to Howard in the will.
Now for our final entry we have a superstition not unique to poker. You know sometimes when you’re watching football (American, not soccer!) and you see a player wearing the same mud-caked uniform, frayed bits of material poking out from the seams like a backcombed cat, time and time again? Well when you win a game in a big way early in the season, why change a winning formula? Even if there’s only one strand of cotton imbued with magic luck, that’s one more bit of luck than none. Well WSOP Main Event winner Pius Heinz took this the the Nth degree, wearing the same white hoodie for the entirety of the 2011 Main Event. By the time Pius reached the final table, half the room behind him could be seen clad in the same ivory finery to support their man!
So that’s all of our crazy superstitions for today. Is your favorite ritual missing from this post? Let us know your barmiest traditions in the comments!
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