Luck: Play Your Cards Right; “That’s Poker”
By Stephen Fisher
Luck, just like religion and politics, garners a lot of varying opinions. At least the subject of luck is immune (comparatively) to the divisive and polarizing opinions that can taint a discussion of religion and politics.
While there are many passionate arguments to be had about religion and politics, Luck is usually just dismissed as a casual reality we all just have to deal with. When we are unlucky, someone might say well you should have “played your cards right” and then follow up with one of my favorites, “That’s Poker!”
Once you’ve spent a little time trying to win at Texas Hold ‘Em, you will start to hear the cliches that go with the sport. There are many, but two that I’ve been pondering are ‘Play your cards right’, and ‘That’s Poker!’
‘Playing your cards right’ in general terms means getting your chips in while the odds are in your favor, while ‘That’s Poker’ is generally the comment you get when, in spite of the odds being on your side, you lose anyway.
Luck comes into play mainly when something happens to turn the odds. Of course it could be good luck, or it could be bad luck. But is there be more to luck than meets the eye?
In a poker tournament you eventually have to put your chips in play. The idea is to do it when the odds are more in your favor. Eventually, even when you play it right, you still lose! And while you want to blow you’re top, trying to keep your cool, someone always says “That’s Poker”, like that will help! Of course, when you win, no one ever says, “That’s Poker!” You just get credit for playing your cards right and winning, like it’s “supposed” to happen.
I’ve been exploring the concept of luck, and wanted to see if there is actually more to it by asking random people what they think. As I said, luck is not like religion or politics, but it is almost as hard to wrap your brain around the idea of luck and what it really is. Some sticklers have told me that luck may still have something to do with religion, and others with a similar but different perspective will just chalk it up to KARMA (which is also kind of a religion).
A funny thing that happened to me when I began thinking about the true meaning of “That’s Poker”, I started using it in other situations away from the poker table. People just look at me like I’m wierd or something. I would be driving along and hit every single red light on this planet, and just blurt out, “That’s Poker!”
If I was woken up from a bad dream, I’d say out loud, “That’s Poker!” Lose my job, “That’s Poker!” Wreck my car, “That’s Poker!” Go to jail, well, that just sucks (so I’m told).
Somewhere between ‘playing your cards right’, and outright luck, you may actually be able to create more luck. One of my favorite quotes in college was by Louis Pasteur, a famous French Philosopher, who said, “Chance favors the prepared mind”.
Even back then, fueled by my statistics class and this quote, I wondered if and how you can actually increase your chances, or better your odds, by being better prepared. What did he mean by that?
Louis Pasteur also said, “Any new system is worth trying when your luck is bad.” My question though is how do you consider your luck to be bad if it can change at any minute?
Well, if you have read along this far, you’re probably expecting some kind of ultimate answer to these pressing questions… I got nothin’. If you find one, let me know please.
A great friend once told me: “I think I am, so I am, I think.” Not sure where this phrase originated, but it speaks to the idea that ‘preparation’ is a continual process. I do however believe that chance favoring the prepared mind is real. Therefore, it is true that you can in some ways create your own luck.
Ultimately, scrutinizing your experiences so as to learn from them is what the best poker players do. The more you play poker, the more intricate and complex the strategy becomes. Especially when considering factors like your position, your read of other people, both in behavior and in betting patterns, chip stack sizes, and on, and on. Each hand you watch, even if you aren’t in the hand, can teach you something and prepare you for future decisions. So even if you “play your cards right” and still lose, just be prepared to say “That’s Poker”, and move on quickly to the next tournament!