Counting Your Money at the Table

In gambling, as in any other profession or diversion, there are many traditions, things one must not do to be a part of the community. In games of chance where money is exchanged these traditions are often built around luck and how one handles winning and losing. When it comes to traditions at the table that can bring bad luck, one of the most notorious is counting your money before you leave the table. You might think that this is one of those things that might go unnoticed by the other players or the dealers, but to some this is a sure fire path to ruin.

The Kenny Rodgers Song

When someone bothers to write a song on a subject, it’s best to take notice. And if you are a gambler and the singer is Kenny “the gambler” Rodgers, you really should take his advice. In his song, ‘The Gambler’ Rodgers relates the rule of not counting your money at the table in a matter the fact way. It comes off as a sage suggestion when he sings “You never count your money when you are sitting at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealings done.” But the truth is there are some very good reasons for not to count your winnings at the table.


Part of the reason certain superstitions exist is less about actually believing it can affect whether you win or lose; it’s about whether or not you respect the people at the table and how things are done in the world of gambling. Keep in mind that gamblers have their culture and respecting that culture’s taboos is nearly as important as winning. Part of the reason people frown on counting at the table is because in the eyes of many you’re celebrating before you have won essentially you are bragging.


In the early days of gambling, when the games were played in rough bars, before the invention of the telephone but after the invention of the gun and knife, a gambler counting his money at a table filled with individuals who may have just lost a fair sum of money with resentment. This made flashing money bad idea. Aside from the fact the that you could be drawing the attention of unsavory folks, that may later attempt to separate you from your winnings at a later time through violent means, you could be making enemies of savvy gamblers at the table looking to make sure you lose the next hand.

Just Plain Luck

At its core, the reason behind the prohibition on counting money at the table is a matter of protecting your luck.  The idea that you hurt you chances at future earnings by counting your money at the table, and that you could be spreading bad luck around to your fellow gamblers is very real to some. The fact is that for many people bad luck is like an infectious disease and by doing things like counting your money at the table you are propagating that plague to the table.

Carrying a Lucky Charm

Have and keeping good luck is a casual concern for the everyday individual, but for the professional to semi-professional gambler it’s essential. We all think about our luck, no matter how skeptical we claim to be, and many of us at one time or another conspired to increase it for the better. History is littered with kings and conquers who went on quests for certain items or paid a ransom for relics they believed would increase their luck or their favor with the gods. Today that same desire has brought people to the roulette table with little items tucked in their pockets they believe will change their destinies. The following are few examples of fetishes and lucky charms carried by gamblers and the strange histories behind them.

The Horseshoe

Some of the most effective lucky charms people carry, never change. Because superstitions around luck and gambling are based in tradition, things like the lucky horseshoe are here to stay. The horseshoe was considered lucky because of the power people engendered in blacksmiths that created the horseshoes. These people worked with fire and iron, substances that seemed magical at the time and as a result people believed that the energy from the forge was transferred to the shoe. The horseshoe had the power to dispel curses and ward off demons primarily because they were made with iron. Still, there are conditions on the effectiveness of the horseshoe as a charm. The points of the shoe must be pointed up for the horseshoe’s power to work.

Rabbit’s Foot

The rabbit’s foot is possibly the oldest lucky charm that people carry. This charm’s history and power are found in hoodoo, the bastardization of witchcraft and voodoo produced outside of Haiti, most popular in the American South and the South American continent. You see one of the fetishes in this religion required the bone of a witch. Many witches were believed to have the ability to change their shapes specifically to that of rabbits as a means of escape. So the left hind foot of a rabbit worked as a fetish or a good luck charm just as well witch’s bone. Of course, for the charm to be most effective the foot needs to be taken from a rabbit shot in a graveyard.


The power of a lucky penny has never been something to far from the world of the gambler. For a penny to be lucky, it must be found haphazardly and face up. Yes, these charms are very easy to find, but it’s not a good idea to have too many at once. Some believe that an abundance of them can throw off your luck. The reason that pennies are considered lucky is twofold; it represents money and good fortune in financial matters, and because metals have always been seen as having magical properties. Many cultures believe that the secrets behind creating metal were given to humanity by gods, so the product of that work is infused with a kind of magic that brings luck and wards off evil.

Sitting in a ‘Lucky Seat’

For a gambler, luck is all about consistency. The game that is played, the drink in their hand, the table they play on, all of these things are a part of what makes them love the sport and what they believe helps them win. Even if the gambler is not prone to winning, they have their rituals and a way of doing things that are dependent on consistency and making sure that they have complete control over the way they play, to ensure they do have some modicum of success at the table or a slot machine. One of the banal considerations amongst gamblers is a lucky seat.

Picking the seat

The first step people typically take down the road to finding their lucky seat is, of course, playing a few hands. In many cases what happens is people sit down at the table alone, just them and the dealer and after placing, let’s say three bets. They lose the first and win the last two. Now this person is what you would call a conservative gambler so chances are they are feeling out the floor, so they would leave this table and try their hands at a few familiar games. After some modest luck, they return to that same table, and that same chair, play two hands and win. And there you have it: a lucky seat is born.

Position and the lucky seat

Most players won’t spend their entire gambling career at the same casino much less at the same table, but they will look for some consistency to pair with their success, like a person who has several lucky pennies, they have found face up. Now these lucky seats like those lucky pennies are interchangeable, but they will have similar traits. Some of lucky seats face the same direction, face towards the entrance, or have their backs to the same wall.

Consistency in a Lucky Seat

More than a few people selecting seats will look for similar nicks, cuts, and certain bits of damage as they hunt for lucky seats, like the ones they have had in the past. Gamblers looking to capture old luck will often look at the feel of a chair when checking to see if it’s lucky. The belief for many gamblers is that these traits on some level ward off bad luck or evil. A big loss or a series of bad hands are enough for people to recognize that a chair has lost its luck.

Losing Lucky seats

In the past when a gambler lost his lucky seat he shot the unlucky person occupying it. This was during the days of the Old West gambler, an archetype that was based more in reality than traditional images of the cowboy. Today however disputes over a lucky seat often are handled less with bullets and more with hurt feelings and a gambler wandering from table to table looking for a lucky seat that will shock their winning streak back to life.

Playing Cards with a Dog in the Room

Most of us love dogs, and there is a certain amount of lore that connects gambling to man’s best friend; however when it comes to playing cards. Bringing your pooch into the room is a big mistake. For as long as there have been gamblers, going back as far as before the days when poker was played without using the 52 card deck, and before it was even called poker, it was taboo to bring a dog into the room. In fact, you know that portrait of dogs playing poker? It’s an inside gambling joke. According to the superstition not a dog at that table is going to have its day. All the chaos in the portrait is meant to show that a dog at a poker table is nothing but trouble.

The Particulars

Not having dogs in a room while you are gambling is the sort of superstition that has lots to do with what’s called confirmation bias. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of people losing big pots to make bringing one into the room an embarrassing social train wreck that will make you more enemies than money.  Some think that it is a matter of proximity, as if the bad luck increases with the dog getting closer to the table and decreases as the dog moves further away. Logically speaking this might be because of the adorable affectionate nature of dogs and that they may snuggle up and distract your thought process in those tense moments. The type of dog even matters to some gamblers with bulldogs being extremely unlucky. But, for the most part, any dog is bad luck or a distraction.

The Excuse

Because of the stigma of having dogs in the room, most private games and even the big public casinos, frown on having dogs to close to the table. This stigma is part of a tradition of course, but what this unofficial prohibition is meant to do is to remove the excuse of a dog having caused someone to lose a pot as a factor. Gamblers are superstitious, so there is no doubt that some people genuinely have an apprehension about having dogs around while their playing. However, some people will use the excuse of a dog to nullify a game.

Exceptions to the Rule and Playing Online

There are only a few exceptions s concerning having a dog near the table while you are gambling. One of them is in the case of a Seeing Eye dog or if they need the dog for another medical reason, the other is if the dog happens to be someone else good luck charm, though this is hardly tolerated as it will cause a disruption at the table. Now with people gambling online more than ever, some have adopted the ‘no dogs in the room’ rule at home, which just goes to show you that in the world of gambling rituals can only change so much with the times.

Playing with $50 Bills

Some of the things we find most innocuous at the betting table can have an effect on the way we play and how our luck is going. One of them is the old superstition concerning playing with $50 bills. This taboo against the $50 bills has become something of a hallmark of the gambling world with even the most seasoned professional poker players seeing the fifty as a harbinger of lost cash. However, there are a lot of substantive reasons why people hold this specific superstition. The fifty is a bill that seemingly is not built for gambling if you are a person who places luck on the same level as skill.

The Legend of Bugsy Siegel

Few names are as synonymous with casinos or gambling than Bugsy Siegel. Known as the man who built Las Vegas, Siegel was a gentlemen Mafioso, a talented gambler and a man with a vision, a vision that got him killed. Bugsy built the city with the mobs help but most importantly the mobs money. This was a costly mistake that led to the loss of a lot of money in the beginning and it didn’t help matters that there was a chance that he was funneling money into his own  private account for himself and his lady friend. When the mob found out they “took care of” Bugsy and his body was found in the desert with several $50 bills in his pocket. This infamous murder caused the bill to fall out of favor.

$5s and $50s

There is a rumor that helped to propagate the phobia surrounding the fifty concerning its resemblance for a time to the five dollar bill. Casinos at the time thought that similarity between the bills would cause mistakes in the counts and that it would be best to just omit the bill. The players saw this trend and attributed bad luck to the number, much in the same way that people attributed the omission of the 13th floor or room to superstition. To further this thought virus it’s rumored that when people brought in their own fifties to exchange for chips they were quickly spirited out of circulation for the same reason. Today even the automated counting machines in many casinos try not to use them.

Counterfeit $50s

Another more logical reason for the stigma surrounding the fifty at gambling tables hast to do with the way bills were made back in the 80’s.  There was at the time a bit of a spike in the number of counterfeit bills that were available during this in the US. This was due primarily to the uptick in drugs which let to laundering and which led to counterfeiting.  The preferred bills for many counterfeiters were the fifty dollar bills as their design was very easy for counterfeiters to work with. Consequently, casino bosses pulled a large number of bills and as before the rumor of them just being bad luck chugged right along.

Crossing your Legs

Crossing your Legs and posture

Gamblers know that the game is bigger than them, and that some things are beyond their control. Numbers always bear out in a certain way, and our influence on them is never complete, so most of us try and get every advantage we can. Have you ever noticed when you sit down at a card table that most people like to face the table they have their feet parallel with each other? The reason for this is that crossing your legs can cause uproar at the table. To cross your legs at the table is to invite bad luck.

The Cross in Superstition

Crosses and the crossing of appendages play a key role in a lot of superstitious rituals and occult ceremonies. For example, the use of the cross in voodoo signifies change and death and is the first action taken amongst voodoo priests and priestess when they open the gates of communication with the dead. These facts became well-known in the American South and people looking to preserve their luck. Many people wear crosses of varying kinds for good luck, because a side from the outright religious connotation the shape itself is often linked to ability to control ones luck or destiny. Of course crosses are not always an object that can produce positive outcomes in ritual or superstition. In voodoo corpses are meant to curse and in many common superstitions crossing ones limbs in certain situation can be the harbinger of bad luck.

History and Violence

Some of the reasons behind the superstition concerning crossing your legs while gambling come from the days when gamblers were mostly men and the men were mostly drunk, and the drunks were often prone to violence. Crossing your legs put people at a strategic disadvantage. When things got violent as they often did you had to be ready to fight back. When a person has accused you of cheating in the early days of gambling knives often came out, and even guns came into play. Consequently, this superstition became prevalent as people tried to defend themselves.

The Nature of Taboos

The reason that many consider crossing ones legs at the gambling table taboo has to do with the fact that no matter what your game of choice in the world of gambling you are immersed in gaming culture. Now, this culture may vary from place to place, with New York having different rules than Monte Carlo. Each one of them has their own taboos and breaking them can make things very awkward while you are at the table. Ancient Greeks called superstitions like not crossing your legs, deisidaimonia or “fear of the spirits or daemons” and this sort of fear was respected. When you are at the table gambling people expect you to know the taboos and what brings on bad luck, and they do not want to have that bad luck to rub off. Of course there are some situations where this sort of activity will be over looked, but be aware that gamblers can be a superstitious group.

The Number 13

The Number 13

There are few numbers that are as notorious and have as much effect on the way that we view our luck as the number 13. All of us gamblers play the odds and look for patterns, but even if we are doing so unconsciously, or if we see ourselves as being very superstitious when we see this number and many of us take special care with our bets and our money.


What sets the superstition surrounding the number 13 apart from any other superstition is that it is essentially clinical. Not only are gamblers, architects, soldiers, and heads of state susceptible to the fear of the number, but there is also a recognized clinical fear of it known as Triskaidekaphobia. Aside from being notoriously difficult to pronounce, this phobia is signified by obsessive counting to determine the presence of the number and an irrational desire to have it removed as a variable in any situation.

13 in History

Just a few years ago, a lot of people were worried about the Mayans being right about the world collapsing in on itself in 2012. What you did not know, was that one of the things that motivated some people to believe this prophecy was the fact that it was declared in the 13th Baktun or the 13th cycle of the Mayan calendar.

The historical importance of the number 13 even crossed contentious religious and cultural lines with Babylonians seeing the number in the same way as many of their tribal rivals, as a curse. However, the Christians of the time considered the number to very lucky.  They looked at The Last Supper and saw Jesus Christ’s and his twelve apostles at the table and consider the number thirteen a boon of glad tidings. Still, others saw significance in the fact that Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, was there and that if there had been twelve and not thirteen at the table things might have turned out quite differently. At the time, there was a lot of mysticism surrounding the faith but things changed some years later, and the number fell out of favor.

Friday, October 13th, 1307

This date lives in infamy as the establishment of dozens of conspiracy theories and the total disillusionment of western society with the number 13. On that day, the majority and heart of the Knights Templar were destroyed. As a group of mystics and Christian crusaders, they were arrested by the French King Philip for various crimes, but also for the crime of being richer than him. Because the masses viewed the actions of the King to be largely unjust there was an outcry, and those who protested and were not themselves put to the sword, carried the day and the negativity surrounding the number into the future with an infamous connotation.

The number 13 in the in gambling

The number thirteen’s role in the world of gambling is a problematic one, as most gamblers work to avoid the number whenever possible and certain games omit the number completely. For example, the number is missing from the baccarat table, some think to put the gambler at ease, and some thank it’s to make the dealer feel lucky.

Playing with Borrowed Money

Playing with Borrowed Money

Shakespeare once wrote “neither a borrower nor a lender be” and you might think that this man was never much of a gambler, but according to history you’d be wrong. Borrowing money has always been a part of the world of gambling, for good and for ill, and to some the idea of giving money liberally to enthusiastic gambler can result in gaining money and not a loss. According to legend, no one ever loses when they bet using borrowed money. This superstition may sound like something convenient that a person looking to borrow money from you might say, but there have been professional gamblers standing behind this claim for years, actively supporting a player in some of the highest-profile gambling destinations in the world and making a tidy sum

The Logic

Part of the gamblers logic attached to this good luck ritual, stems from the idea of motivation. It’s pretty well accepted that those who owe money are pretty focused on making the smart bet and earning enough money to pay back the person from whom they borrowed the money. This sort anecdotal consistency is likely what fed into the superstition initially and gave rise to the practice. The other reason for actively lending money to bet is that people who loan money, and expect to be paid back with interest, prefer to have the debts out there as a source of income, and this sort of old wives tale plays right into their sales pitch.

The First Timer and the Lender

One reason for lending money and the belief in the power of playing with borrowed money, is that so often the bower is a first-time gambler. There is a whole separate superstition surrounding the luck of the first time player. According to this superstition, a first timer’s luck is unshakable. If you visit a casino you are likely to see one or two people exclaiming their beginners luck is making them rich, and that alone is enough to make experienced gambler with money lend stand up and take notice.

High rollers in Monte Carlo

As one of the main European destinations for gamblers with reputations for winning big, Monte Carlo has become the residence of gaming hawks with money to lend. These folks have been known to scout out first-time players on a hot streak and offer cash to keep them playing.

The Loser gets back on Track

One example of an experienced and skeptical gambler using borrowed money to when happened in Vegas in 2009 after a rough run on the blackjack table “Jim” was cash poor and decided to leave the Casino just before things got worse. Then he had the idea to head out and get a small low-interest loan and bet smarter and not as frequently. His plan was to make a series of around 50 small bets in about six hours. Eventually, he succeeded and was able to pay the bet back immediately.

Entering through the Main Entrance

Gambling Superstitions: Entering through the Main Entrance

Superstitious beliefs are popular amongst gamblers, and it’s easy to see why. After all, large amounts of money and high stakes are involved, and players can benefit from any little tip of the odds in their favor. In many gambler’s minds, the more closely they follow superstitions, the more money ends up in their pockets.

These beliefs span all over the world, sometimes differing from country to country, and including all sorts of behaviors. For example, some people think that wearing a lucky color or a good luck charm will increase the chances of their winning. Others don’t count their money during the middle of a game because they think it will decrease their chances of winning. Singing or whistling is bad luck, too. And you can forget about crossing your legs while gambling, that is a big no-no in the gambling world. But have you heard of the growing superstition that you shouldn’t enter through the main entrance of a casino?

The Superstition

Out of all the gambling superstitions, this is one of the newest on the block. Many gamblers now believe that entering a casino through the main entrance will curse you with bad luck, and so should be avoided. It’s thought that when you do so, it is akin to entering through the mouth of a beast. Well, that doesn’t sound like a positive experience! I don’t think anyone wants to get swallowed, chewed up and spit out when in a casino. Gamblers will instead find a side or back entrance to sneak into the casino, and thus supposedly have a better chance at winning.

Possible Origin

This superstition is one of the newer ones, so the origin is more easily traced. The belief actually started with a casino. When MGM studios opened their casino in Vegas, they designed the main entrance to be a lion’s mouth. While a unique and interesting feature, the lion entryway backfired on them. Gamblers started to associate entering the casino, with entering the mouth of a beast. They started to think that they wouldn’t win if they did so. As the belief spread, gamblers believed that entering in the main entrance of any casino was bad luck. When money is at stake, many people don’t want to take any chances with bad luck. Eventually, MGM had to remodel their entrance because this was such a popular belief and was deferring gamblers. Imagine if they had chosen another animal as part of their remodel. This superstition may have never even existed in the first place!

So, next time you are heading to the casino, if you see people avoiding the main entrance like the plague, now you will know why. You can try your chances braving the mouth of the beast, or see if following this superstition brings you any luck, and find another entrance. You never know!

Blowing on the Dice

Blowing on the Dice

If you take a walk through any casino, you are bound to notice that there are different superstitions being followed. Whether you see an unusual amount of people wearing red, or people crossing their fingers, these subtle actions are practiced in hopes of leaning the odds in the practitioner’s favor. After all, it only makes sense; tons of money is on the line when risky games are played, and people want to get lucky. Most people will do what they can to improve their chances. Some gamblers have even sworn that their success was due to strictly following their set of superstitions.

One prominent superstition that you can find at almost any casino, as well as in dice games around the world outside of casinos, is the act of blowing on the dice. In fact, you’ll probably see this at any craps table you approach. Many people do this act without even knowing why they do it, it is just “what you do” before you throw dice. Well, let us take a closer look at this superstition, and where it may have come from.

The Superstition

Blowing on dice is one of the most common superstitions around the world. It is so common, that in movies, you’ll probably see beautiful women blowing on a man’s dice before they are rolled. It is believed that blowing on the dice before they are rolled in certain games, like craps, will help the gambler roll the right number. It supposedly helps to bring good luck. Gamblers also often blow on cards or rub the dice for good luck. This is one of the easiest superstitious acts to perform that many believe help to fill their pockets with cash.

Possible Origins

While you’ll probably see people blowing on dice in movies, superstition didn’t come from Hollywood or even casinos for that matter. Like many superstitious beliefs, the act of blowing on the dice is said to go way back, even hundreds of years. There are two popular beliefs about the origins for this superstition. The most likely story goes back to the early days of gambling when some gamblers would coat one side of the dice with a sticky substance that would become active when it is blown on. Others believe that it goes back to early street games when gamblers would blow on the dice simply to clean them off so the roll wasn’t obstructed. No matter which origin is true, if either, blowing on the dice has spread around the world and is still done to this day.

Even though superstitions are questionable in terms of rationality, they are very common and are strongly believed by many people. Sound interesting? You may want to give it a try next time you’re in the casino to find out for yourself if blowing on the dice improves your odds or not.

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