The Lucky Ones: Is It Serendipity or Smarts?

"There's not a professional poker player in the world that became a pro based on pure luck," said top pro Daniel Negreanu. "It has to be skill. On any given day, you could beat me at poker. But if we played twice, if we played 10 times, if we played 1,000 times, I would come out ahead — regardless of how much luck you have."

Playing the Odds

At the tables, he calculates odds, reads players' tendencies and draws on years of experience. So when he gets called "lucky," he knows what that means. "It's a way of insulting you, by saying it's not your skill that wins you, it's just that you're lucky," he said.

And yet Wilson says that for her customers, luck be a lady — herself. Her customers at the deli ask her to rub their lottery tickets on her body, in the hopes that some of her luck will rub off, too. She doesn't mind a bit. "Go ahead, take a piece, you know?"

But by month's end, luck won't live in that Long Island deli anymore. Wilson's moving to the country and quitting her job. Yet she won't quit buying scratch-offs, and counting on what so many of us these days want to deny or ignore: pure luck.

"Why should I stop now, just 'cause I won? Besides," she says with a wink, "maybe I'll win a third time!"

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