Superstition at the Casino
When I was 10 years old, I started keeping a hockey card of Mario Lemieux under my pillow. I thought it might bring me good luck. Did it work? I couldn’t tell one way or the other, but after a week, the card was thoroughly wrinkled. Then I found out it would have been worth at least $100 in mint condition.
That’s about the full extent of my superstitious behavior – at least the kind that involves four-leaf clovers and rabbit feet and all that. I remember reading about hockey players who would freak out if they saw a pair of hockey sticks left crossed on the floor of the dressing room. Then there were the players who would wear the same underwear during a winning streak. I never took things quite that far in my life. Then again, I wasn’t much of a hockey player. Maybe some magical thinking would have helped after all.
Now that I’m dealing blackjack, I see people bring all kinds of superstitious beliefs to the table. There’s an overarching theme to this madness: the idea that the cards are not random, but are subject to a kind of karma. Some people call it the “sacred flow.” If you behave in certain ways, you can either bend this flow to your advantage, or it can drag you under like a riptide.
The most common superstition that I’ve noticed, perhaps because I’m a dealer, is the idea of the lucky dealer. I’m the one “controlling” the cards, after all. People who are winning tend to treat me better, as if that will make me continue to deal them good cards. The flip side is when I deal people bad cards. Now I’m their unlucky dealer. Maybe they’ll never come to the table again as long as I’m there.
They’re Magically Delicious
Outside of my little bubble, the most common superstition at the table is the concept of the “bad player” messing up everyone else’s sacred flow. This is the one that really tilts people. Someone makes a bad play, like hitting on 19 (it happens), and everyone goes nuts, as if the blackjack gods are going to throw lightning bolts at the table. It makes me smile – on the inside, of course.
And of course, there are the lucky charms. This is the next level of blackjack voodoo, and the charms do have some practical use if you’re the nervous type. They’re like a security blanket that calms you down and helps you make better decisions. I’ve seen all manner of lucky hats and little dolls and commemorative coins. Rosary beads are popular, of course.
Then there was the blue-haired woman who showed up at my table carrying a small ceramic urn, about the size of a baseball. Anytime she’d split the cards, she’d rub the top of the urn and say, “Here we go, Jimmy.” This lasted for about a month, until one day, she didn’t bring the urn with her. I didn’t ask, but she volunteered the information anyway: Jimmy was her pet rabbit.