A small portion of business professionals will wait until tomorrow to step foot on an airplane. An eccentric CEO or two will conduct business―via smartphone―in his pajamas. A couple of veterinarians might call into work sick on a day such as today. (They, however, would readily make the perilous journey to the office in case of a feline emergency.) And a handful of credulous chefs won’t bake, fry, grill, broil or burn a thing. Ask them about it, and they will tell you that a kitchen is no place for a cook today.
But not the 720 tenacious poker players who started off in pursuit of the 2012 Main Event gold bracelet today at noon. They will continue to battle it out for the bracelet on this curious Friday the 13th, no matter what. Each player hopes to stack chips, triple up and obliterate the competition, but some are bound to succumb to the “unluckiest” day of the year.
Surely some superstitious poker players exist. So, we asked Johnny Chan, the man with a plan―and an orange―about this freaky Friday business.
When asked if he entertained any superstitious notions, Chan replied, “A little bit. Yeah. Sure.” But the poker legend was quick to add, “The cream is always gonna rise to the top. Good playing…that helps.” According to Chan, poker is 30 percent luck and 70 percent skill, which explains his 10 WSOP gold bracelets―good for second overall behind Phil Hellmuth who boasts 12 -- one way away from unlucky 13.
It is safe to say that this 13th of Friday won’t bother Johnny. “Every day I come here, and I’m always prepared,” Chan said. After all, the number three is considered lucky in Chinese culture.
During the old days of smoky poker clubs, Chan brought an orange to the table. He relished in its citrus reprise throughout long, foggy nights at the table. When we asked Chan about his orange, we were pleased to hear that he recently acquired a fresh one. A buddy bought it for him the other day. Not wanting to dismiss a gift from an old friend, he decided to keep it with him at the table.
Chan’s thoughts on today’s dubious date: “Friday the 13th might be the luckiest day of my life. So, let’s hope that it is.”
His thoughts on the 666 money bubble: “If it happens, it happens. But I’m not planning on landing on number 666. I’m planning on landing on number one. So, I’m not gonna worry about 666.”
His tentative plan for today: double up his stack.
Next, we tracked down a pro with steadfast fortitude, a brilliant―yet reasonable―mind and one monstrous mound of chips: Vanessa Selbst.
When asked about her Friday the 13th plan of attack, Selbst jokingly suggested conducting her superstitions backwards today. So, don’t be surprised if some Selbst supporters show up, wearing lucky t-shirts inside-out.
All jokes aside, Selbst finds solace in one of her girlfriend’s customs. Vanessa’s lady has been carting around a king cake baby she acquired in New Orleans earlier this year. Selbst insists that she always runs well in the presence of the baby. Guess that baby has seen a lot of the WSOP this summer! Selbst has made four deep runs this year, including two final tables and one gold bracelet. She started out 12th in chips today.
When asked about people’s morbid fear of this Friday, Selbst answered definitively, “People are crazy.”
Identifying the origin of superstitions is not an exact science. But historians believe that the dreadful shadow cast by Friday the 13th is derived from two separate sources―the fear of Friday and the fear of the number 13.
Back in 1700 BC, our Babylonian brothers detected evil in the devil’s dozen. When constructing the ancient Code of Hammurabi, they decided to omit the number 13.
According to Norse mythology, Lorki, a mischievous god, crashed an amicable dinner party of 12 divine patrons. The uninvited 13th guest tricked Hoder, the blind god of darkness, into shooting Blader, the god of joy, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. When Blader died, a bleak blanket of darkness covered the entire earth.
Then there was that Last Supper, a final feast for Jesus and his 12 disciples. (One Jesus + 12 of his best buds = 13).
But what about Friday, Friday, Friday?
Some say that Eve tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden on a Friday. The Bible says that bad guys destroyed the temple of Solomon on a Friday. Furthermore, Christians believe that Jesus died on a Friday. But Pagan poker players should fear not, for some ancient cultures revered Fridays, just as we do today.
According to Time, Friday and 13 didn’t find each other until the 20th century. In 1907, Boston stockbroker, Thomas Lawson, published an infamous book entitled Friday the Thirteenth. The novel outlined an evil businessman’s plot to crash the stock market on the unluckiest day of the year.
Do you or a loved one suffer from triskaidekaphobia, aka the irrational fear of Friday the 13th? If so, follow these folklore remedies: climb to the top of a mountain and burn all your holy socks, or stand on your head and eat some gristle.
Or consult Dr. Donald Dossey. During an interview with National Geographic, Dossey, a historian and phobia specialist, suggested replacing those negative thoughts with happy ones. "What you think about, you begin to feel. What you feel generates what you do. And what you do creates how you will become,” Dossey said.
Lucky for us, poker players refuse to surrender to frivolous superstitions. No, trepidation will not tie them down. They will not stay in bed all day. They will not call in with an upset stomach. And they will not avoid copious crowds―albeit a few of them might sport dirty clothes and engage in other ritualistic habits.
All of the remaining Main Event mercenaries will remain in relentless pursuit of poker’s greatest prize on this Friday the 13th, an ominous, rainy day at the Rio.