Actually LIFE is a lot like POKER.
And really, I am beginning to know a decent amount about poker. I began playing poker this past summer. Okay, let me back up a bit. I used to play poker when I was younger (early twenties if you really need to know). I loved playing poker every week with my friends. We had a standing poker game every Friday night (I think it was Friday night, it very well could have been another night like Saturday). Yes, every Friday (or Saturday) evening, I would get together with four of my best guy friends and we would have ‘guy’s night out/in’, drink beer, play poker and talk about guy things like girlfriends, sports, and Dungeons and Dragons.
And don’t think for a moment that I don’t see you scratching your head and wondering how the hell I came to be involved in guy’s night.
Yeah, I’m just that awesome.
Actually, it’s probably a fairly long story and involves lots of little side stories and what not, so why don’t you just go with it for a moment, believe in my absolute awesomeness, remember that I’m the trainwreck extraordinaire who does pretty much everything backwards (and this qualifies, na?) and just let me get on with my poker story. Okay? Okay.
So anyway, here we are playing poker, solving the world’s problems, discussing cars, and having a great time every week and then BOOM! All of a sudden, through a convoluted set of happenstances, weekly poker is no more.
Flash forward to this past year.
I’m learning new things, enjoying life, reconnecting with myself and generally open to experiences. I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I’m ready to conquer the world. One night, we drive past a place that is rather prominently advertising ‘free poker’ on Thursday nights.
“Hey, look! They have free poker on Thursday nights” I ever so eloquently announce. “I used to play poker all the time. I miss poker.”
“Would you like to try it out?” he rejoins.
And this is where I begin to backpedal just a little bit.
“Ummmmm …. Uhhh … I don’t know. I don’t know how to play Texas Hold ‘em.”
Absolutely, ridiculously open to new things am I.
Bottom line here is that, yes, we *do* end up going to poker night at the quasi-local establishment. We make a date of it, having a drink and dinner before the game begins. We play, I learn, I’m hooked.
Now we play in two separate leagues. And by that I don’t mean that he plays in one league and I play in another. We play in two separate leagues – together – two nights out of most every week.
It happens to be fun, it’s free (if you don’t count the cost of any drinks and/or food that we buy) and to top it all off, we rawk. Or is that rock? I’m probably going to have to do research on that word now. Can’t be looking like an oldie, here. You know I’m 29, right?!?? *wink*
Anyway, since this past summer, we have qualified for the regional championships in both leagues. Last night I ended up in the final 5% out of 1174 players. I won an actual prize and had I not had the wrong card turn up on the river, I would have been in the top 1% and maybe I would’ve won the big money prize. Eh. It’s gambling. YOU DON’T PLAY WHAT YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE.
This really is life lesson number one. I didn’t have any major stake in the whole thing because I don’t put any actual money into the game. Winning the prize is great, winning the prize is fun but I’m not losing anything I can’t afford to lose if I …if I … (wait for it) … lose.
You don’t gamble your rent or your mortgage money. You don’t spend the money you have set aside for lunches, haircuts, shoes or clothing for the kids. You don’t gamble your car on a chance, even if it seems like a ‘sure thing’. You don’t toss your wedding ring into the pot, you don’t ‘borrow’ your wife’s diamonds, you just don’t do it.
You don’t gamble what you can’t afford to lose.
And now, I am going to say some things that directly follow this rule and then I’m going to add in what appears to be the direct opposite, but in reality is exactly the same. You just have to have the correct perspective.
You don’t gamble your relationship. You don’t lie or cheat while thinking that whatever you have done or want to do or are currently doing won’t be discovered. If you made a promise, keep it. If you are monogamous, act like it. If you don’t wish to keep your promises, if you don’t wish to keep your fidelity then you don’t deserve to have that relationship. You don’t believe in it, you don’t care enough about it and you should get out of the relationship or renegotiate the terms before you do anything that you promised not to do. Period. End of story. You made a promise, you asked for trust and if you cannot afford to lose the relationship (or you don’t want to) or if you cannot afford to lose the faith and trust and belief that your partner has been investing in you, then you shouldn’t be doing whatever the hell it is that you are doing or contemplating doing. If you do, don’t come crying to me when the other person no longer believes in you and/or no longer stays with you. You gambled your relationship.
Gamble your heart, go all in, remain pot committed and have the fortitude and the guts to see it through.
While this seems a contradiction, what it is, really, is an investment. You cannot waffle around and put a toe in the water. If you say the words ‘I love you’ then your partner deserves your complete and utter devotion. You cannot speak of love while reserving any part of yourself … just in case. It seems like a gamble but what it is, truly, is a commitment. Bank hard on the fact that you know yourself and bank on the fact that you have gotten to know the other person well enough to be in love. You have something precious, something amazing and it deserves you becoming ‘pot committed’ to going ‘all in’ day after day after day. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It will be the hardest thing you ever do.
Some days it is going to seem like you bet on the wrong hand. Some days you are going to feel like you hit the jackpot and are flying high on the score that you have made. There are days when it will feel like your partner has stacked the deck against you and all you can do is turn is a lousy unsuited 5-3. What do you do? You gamble. You retain your idea that you are ‘all in’ and you play out the hand that you were dealt. That 5-3 has won more times than I can count. What you are doing here is going ‘all in’ on possibilities. You are making an investment in your future, you are building a foundation, you are banking on the here, the now, the yesterday and the infinite tomorrows. You deserve to win but you cannot if you are willing to fold. A folded hand never wins. Ever. Believe in yourself, believe in your partner and believe that ‘precious’ is a state of mind that complements the absolutely wonderful hand that you have been dealt and that YOU have control over that state of mind. Do you want to gamble away what you felt was the best thing in your life because you are having a spot of trouble or doubt? I’d like to reference lessons number three and six here but you should still read them all. In order, even. Because it would make me happy – which again references lesson three *big grin*
On a side note, and perhaps lesson number two – being ‘pot committed’ and ‘all in’ doesn’t mean that there are never reasons to walk away from the table. Even if you are all in, an abusive situation should be abandoned – even if you need to walk away from every last chip you have. There are people at your table, or the next table over, or running the room, who will be happy to share or offer you a leg up, or direct you to somewhere where you can get help. Walk away if you have a gambling problem. Walk away if you experience abuse. Walk away from danger. Walk away, drive away, run away. Do. It. Now. And if you see someone else with a problem, take the time to see if you can help them out. Which leads me to lesson number three.
Poker lesson number three. It isn’t always your turn. Just like in poker, sometimes it’s his turn, sometimes it’s your turn and quite often it’s someone else’s turn entirely. Just like in poker, this doesn’t always turn out to be fair. Sometimes you change tables only to find that some of the baggage from the previous table has followed you. Sometimes you end up sitting in as the big blind, regardless of the fact that you just were big blind and you aren’t supposed to be again. Yep, it isn’t fair. Sometimes it just is what it is and you have to play with what you have and what you were given. You don’t always get to make the rules, you don’t always get to make it fair, and you certainly don’t always get to make any kind of issue out of the unfairness of whatever is happening. Lesson here? Suck it up, Cupcake. *shrug*
Poker lesson number four. If you don’t show up on time, don’t expect the game to wait for you. This isn’t rocket science and it shouldn’t be unexpected. Life, just like poker, goes on whether you show up (physically, mentally, and/or emotionally) or not. If you want to be a part of it, you need to show up with all your faculties intact, you need to engage in it, and you need to try. You really will get the most out of it (poker or life) if you try.
Poker lesson number five. Don’t cheat. Errrrrr …. duh? Yes, I know plenty of people that cheat. Some of them cheat at poker, some of them cheat at life but yes, they cheat. And most of the time, it seems to work for them. All I can say is that I really believe sooner or later the cheating will catch up to you. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, it may not be a month or a year from now. What you have to remember is that the short term solution and enjoyment of cheating, although it gets you what you want, isn’t worth the price you are going to pay if and when you get caught. Cheating is kind of like eating potato chips. You do it once, innocently have one chip and before you know it, your mouth is watering, your hand is back inside the bag, and you’re searching around for the next chip. Someday eating all those chips will clog up your arteries, or increase your waistline, or cause high blood pressure. Just keep your hand out of the bag, don’t even think about stacking the deck and never, ever cheat. The temporary rush of winning isn’t worth the heartache of the eventual discovery and loss. And, yes!! It can happen to you. You can be discovered. You aren’t the smartest card in the deck. There will always be someone smarter than you in ways you might not even imagine.
Lesson six. If you want to have fun, you will have fun. If you want to look at everything that is wrong, every bad choice that was made, every wrong turn of the cards and be miserable then you will be miserable. If you want to play the game, have fun, enjoy the moment in each win, lose, or draw and generally be a happy person … well, then … be one. Experience the moments. Enjoy the little things. Make an effort to be the happiest person you can be and you will find that you are having more fun, seeing more beautiful, unique things, enjoying each moment and not simply waiting for the next rush, the next win, the next perfect hand.
Because in life, just like in poker, there is no perfect hand. It is what you make it.
Make it count.