Love & Cards

“Lucky at cards, unlucky in love.”

There is a good chance that you’ve heard some variation of this idiom.  Recently I gave this theory some serious thought when a friend invited me to play a “friendly game” of Texas hold ’em.  Side note, any time the term “friendly” is used to describe a game, know there is nothing friendly about to happen.  “Friendly game of football”…start up the ambulance, someone is going to the hospital.

I had never played a single game of Texas hold ’em but I’ve watched the national tournament a number of times on television and felt confident that I would be able to bluff my way through a fun evening of cards with friends.  (In the distance, an ambulance starts its engine.)

The invitation was at a Hollywood Producer’s house and the other players were all successful men in the industry, so I knew that we wouldn’t be playing nickel, dime, quarter.  I rounded up every bit of money I could scrape together, ironically turning my nickels, dimes & quarters into bills, and headed to the game.  It should have been a warning sign that the host had his own custom poker table set up when I arrived.

At the start of the game everyone would “buy in” at the bank and if you ran out of money, you could always do a second “buy in” to keep playing.  Before the game was over, I had to “buy in” five times.  That means five times I went “all in” and lost.  Near the end of the evening, the other players would look at me and say, “Please fold.  This is not a bluff.  I am going to beat whatever you are holding.  Get out of this hand!”  But I am a slow learner and would respond, “We’ll see.”

We took a break late in the evening and I said to the host, “My problem is that I am a dreamer and totally disregard the odds.  I play with my heart and not my head.”  I constantly ignored the fact that I was holding nothing and believed that the River would magically turn my random collection of low cards into something of value.  Not a very good strategy.

The other players would comment on the odds of success based on which cards came up.  “He has a 31% chance and he has a 69% chance of winning.”  (The Turn)  “Oh, now he has a 19% chance and…etc. etc. etc.  At that moment I realized, OH!  There is a mathematical strategy to this game!  Naive?  You bet.  Which explains why I lost almost every single hand.  My plan was much more simplistic.  Stay in the game, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

After my fourth “buy in” one of the players tried to help me by saying, “You don’t have to play every single hand.”  My response said a lot about my playing style, “What am I, a coward?”  That generated a great deal of laughter at the table.

At the end of the night, my friend offered to give me some money to cover my losses and I turned it down.  I told him that I made my own choices and my losses were my losses.

At least I could take solace in knowing that my terrible luck in cards assured my great luck in love.  (In the distance, an ambulance starts its engine.)

“Unlucky at cards, lucky in love.”  Not so sure that is quite accurate.  As I have written about lately, ad nauseam, I am dipping my toe back into the dating world for the first time in a very long time and I am finding  that it is probably closer to reality that how you play cards is also how you love.  At least that is true in my case.  I play with my heart and not my head.  I believe, time and time again, that while I may not be holding a great hand…if I hang in there my luck will change with the next turn of a card.  I stay in when the smart thing to do is fold.  I go “all in” on every hand.  I am terrible at bluffing and I constantly show what cards I am holding and what is in my heart at any given moment.

I need to pay attention when I hear, “Get out of this hand!  This is not a bluff.”  Instead of believing, maybe…just maybe…the next card will turn the tide and change everything.

I am learning that in both cards and love, there is a happy medium.  Go ahead and buy in.  Get a seat at the table.  Play smart.  Play the cards in your hand and not the ones you hope are secretly out there.  It’s OK to fold.  You have to be alright never knowing what cards the other player was holding.  The best hand doesn’t always win.  Even if you have Kings and you believe that you can’t lose…someone out there has Aces.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, don’t blame the other player.  Own up to the fact that you made your own choices and your losses are your losses.

Maybe it would be safer and less painful to stick to solitaire and avoid “friendly games” of cards and love.  But that is not the life I want for myself.  No matter how many times I have to “buy in”, I’m going to continue to have a seat at the table.

So maybe I haven’t really learned that much after all.  (In the distance, an ambulance starts its engine.)

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