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Luck or brains?
by Tony Butcher
Issue 7
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In the office where I work, luck or superstition are parts of the daily routine. I know a guy who sits on the same seat on the train every morning, walks into the office through the same turnstile (choice of four) and even uses the same toilet every morning (again a choice of four). It’s me.

By keeping the same routine and having superstitions, we look to keep luck on an even footing. In the same way, these routines are used to keep bad luck at bay. Footballers are among the worst for superstitions and are often found putting their left boot on first every game or not putting their shirt on until out on the pitch. I have even seen players cut the collar off their shirt in an attempt to change a run of bad luck.

I try not to be obsessive but, as with most things in life, if you pay attention to the small details the rest looks after itself. I guess I could be described as lucky. When I was a child, I won more than I lost at cards when we played for small change with the family at Christmas. I even have happy memories of winning six races out of seven at a horseracing track.

I have had to endure a run of bad luck from time to time. Usually this is when I play online poker and the right cards don’t fall to me. I am only new to the game compared to some of the ladies and gentlemen who enjoy taking my money. The experience I gain while playing and learning, eventually, I am confident of this, will enable me to win some hands at the tables. If it happens though, will it be because I am a better player or simply because my luck has changed?

When you’re playing poker or at the casino then most gamblers would prefer Lady Luck to be sitting on their shoulder. With the recent boom in online poker, players across the world have the chance to pit their skills against people they would never normally meet. Even in poker, the most important element is not luck because the best hand doesn’t always win the pot. At a casino, luck is all a gambler has. There is no game where the house does not enjoy odds in its favour. Most of these games follow random outcomes and therefore cannot be accurately predicted.

Financial markets are different to casinos. Market trends and directions can be predicted and specific levels can be determined to which the markets will turn. Some of these are fundamental and relate to the underlying economics, while others are technical and infer a degree of psychological pressure, for example the 10,000 level in the Dow Jones Index. This dramatically reduces the influence of luck. At the end of a very profitable day, not many traders will put it down to luck.

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