April 28, 2012

Life and Poker

I was channel surfing recently when I landed on a televised poker game.  I happen to enjoy poker, especially when winning, and so I watched for awhile.  At some point it occurred to me that  . . . poker is an excellent analogy for life.

Hear me out . . .
  • Everyone brings to the table their unique set of skills and talents.  Some are great players, some are adequate, and some are really not cut out for the game whatsoever.  Of course, not being a good poker player means you won't survive long at the table.  Does that make the bad poker player a bad person?  Of course not, yet at the table and in life those who can't play "the game" well are often ridiculed and shamed.

  • Every person at the table has pockets of different "depths".   Some can lose and simply put their hand in their pocket to re-load.  Others . . . not so much.

  • Big stacks can absorb huge losses and still survive.  However, even small losses can be fatal to the short stack.  Who feels the most pain . . . a billionaire suffering losses of hundreds of millions or a single Mom living cheque to cheque facing an unexpected car repair and therefore cannot afford to pay her utilities?

  • Poker can be unfair, if not downright cruel.  Even if you get great cards and make good decisions you can still lose the hand.  And, the opposite is equally true.  Sometimes, much to the chagrin of others, someone with a mediocre hand and doesn't know what they're doing can get lucky.

  • Whereas big stacks can afford to be patient, wait for some good cards, and pick their spots; the short stack has to act immediately, often pre-maturely, with whatever cards he or she is dealt while hoping for a little luck before the forced bets drain away their chips. 

  • Sometimes the big stack is able to use its relative wealth to bully others and win hands that are not very good.  Advantage big stack . . . and the rich get richer.

  • Even if the players at the table are of fairly equal skills and have equal depth of pockets  (neither of which happens very often, if at all) . . . everyone gets different cards dealt to them.  Even good players can only do so much with bad cards.  You can be the sharpest knife in the drawer but a series of bad luck can still wipe you out.

Of course, this analogy breaks down on one crucial point . . .

Poker is just a game, but life is for keeps.  Whereas I have no problem with big stacks in life, I am concerned about people getting knocked out of the game.  Even if a person is responsible for their predicament, bad decisions should mean that they will never have a big stack not that they will be sentenced to hunger or homelessness.

(By the way . . . if you happen to think that life IS a game . . . chances are you've got a big stack.  Just saying.)

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  1. You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em...

    Great post, Sean. You're an ace in my book!

    1. Thanks . . . I'll take Aces any day. I was afraid I was the Joker. :)

  2. Truly interesting take on poker. Its safe to assume many people agree with your poker and life analogy. Awesome piece!