Friday, January 20, 2006

I find myself thinking about gambling a lot. I’ve written a few things that revolved around the racetrack, Vegas, or just wagering in general. Guess I find it fascinating. Not so much the actual games, but how they relate to life.

I don’t wanna get too deep with this, but sometimes it seems to me that life is a big gamble. I’m tempted to combine the idea that playing at a casino, you play long enough, you’re gonna “lose” in the end, like life. The only sure thing is death and taxes. Or the house edge.

Okay, too depressing for a Friday post. I plan to be enjoying a few Scotches in about two hours, so let’s lighten the mood, eh?

In life, like gambling… you gotta try to enjoy it while you can. You should avoid playing scared or depressed or tired. And you gotta take chances once in a while. How much of it can you predict? How much of it can be calculated by good choices and actions? That which we can’t control… is it governed by luck? Are the dice loaded by the fates? Is karma dealing from the bottom of the deck?

Your head tells you it’s completely random, but your heart tells you something else. I’ve read some books on gambling, how to win at blackjack, horseracing, craps… They all essentially say it comes down to two things: Odds and money management. And yet, any experienced gambler will tell you, there’s an X factor. A feeling. They know it’s not logical, but most of them won’t completely discount it. Even the most skillful player wouldn't mind a little mojo.

And this is how it ties into life for me these days.

Something on my mind lately is how I have too much on my mind lately. It’s been said before: I think too much. Still, what am I supposed to do? Be a friggin’ non-thinking moron? Where’s that gonna get me? I have no interest in a career in politics.

Well, I played some poker the other night -- my friend’s been inviting me for a while. But despite my gambling predilection, I held off joining this ongoing game because it was always in the middle of the week and a long schlep from home. This time I decided to try it, but I doubt it’ll be a regular thing for me -- I’m still tired from the lack of sleep I got that late night. Been walking around in a daze of Hold ‘Em terminology -- hardly a stud when I flop my river at every turn.

Perhaps I was overwhelmed at first. I don’t know what was going on with me… but I couldn’t remember what I was holding. I’d peek at my two pocketed cards and a moment later, forget entirely. It was the worst case of short-term memory. And I didn’t want to keep my cards up as a constant reminder, allowing others to see (it was a crowded table) and I was a bit embarrassed at having to check every five seconds (the table was full of friendly, but experienced poker players).

So I often played without even recalling what I had. During a tense showdown, one of the other guys suspiciously asked me, “Do you have a good hand?” I narrowed my eyes back and said, “I don’t remember.” And he thought I was just being coy.

But despite this amnesia, I was winning. I did fairly well in that first game.

Now it coulda been beginner’s luck. There was another rookie there, who actually won that first game. Yet in the second game, he came in last, and I only hung around a bit longer than that before I went all in and lost. (Maybe I’m making excuses, but I was probably purposefully playing poorly to get outta there and go home.)

But I have another theory.

As the game went on, I began to understand it all better. I started thinking about strategy, determining my chances of getting that straight versus my opponent’s probability of getting that three-of-a-kind… and trying to read his “tells”, call his bluffs, etc. And most importantly, I was remembering what cards I had.

In other words, my brain started to take over. Damn brain. You don't like me, and I don't like you, but let's get through this thing and then I can continue killing you with alcohol.

See, in the beginning, I was going on gut feelings. I remember one time, I saw there was a nine and ace in the community cards, and I thought I also had a nine and ace -- two pairs, aces high. But after raising the bet to a pretty big pot, I peeked at my cards again. I had a king-ten suited. Good cards, for sure, but I was playing my hand from the last round -- stupid. Or was it? Regardless of my hand, I had a good feeling, even if my opponent was probably going on a pair of aces… so I kept calling and raising… and sure enough, on that last card, I got a flush and won the whole enchilada.

So I’ve concluded two things: 1) I gotta let my feelings do as much talking as my thinking; and 2) I get the feeling I’m thinking and talking too much about all of this whole gambling/life metaphor.

Almost time for the Scotch.


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