I’m bad at poker
I’m not sure when I realized it, but I’m really bad at poker. Like seriously bad. Although I’ve lost the lion’s share of poker games I’ve ever played, I’ve still got some desire to keep going.
It’s not even that I don’t know how to play the game, it’s that I knowingly hurt myself playing it. Regardless of my apparent ineptness in probabilistic strategy games, though, poker has taught me some valuable lessons. As I’ve been reflecting on some of my unfavorable nights, I’ve realized that some of my worst losses have led me to reconsider the importance I place upon life’s biggest wins.
We all make choices in life, and ultimately bear the brunt of our decisions — good or bad. We’ve all made regrettable choices, like “forgetting” to do that project that’s due tomorrow, or faking a case of the flu to avoid that dreaded meeting. But it’s important for us, sometimes, to stop dwelling on the past. Hindsight bias — the tendency of people to overestimate their ability to have predicted an outcome that could not possibly have been predicted — is a real thing. If I’m sure of one thing in life, it’s that nobody has enough foresight to predict the future. It might be cliche but you can only see as far into the future as you’ve actually lived through it. It’s pointless, frankly, for us to go on after making a mistake and spout mea culpa, mea culpa (or my fault) for whatever happened in the past, good or bad. It’s important, just like in poker, to recognize your position and where that places you.
There’s a famous song by the Police aptly titled “Canary in a Coalmine” — one of my favorites. Apart from the chorus, one of the song’s most powerful lyrics lies in this particular line: “Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect. You live your life like a canary in a coalmine.” This metaphor, a canary in a coalmine, is an allusion to the canaries which coal miners would often carry into tunnels with them. If dangerous, poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide were released into the mining shaft, the canaries would die first — thus alerting the miners of potential dangers and providing them with a vital warning. Generally speaking, a canary in a coalmine is an indicator of any potential danger or fear. In some sense, they can be powerful tools. However the Police, in their own genius, interpreted the metaphor within another extreme: If someone is too afraid to take a risk or too fickle in regards to making an important decision for some arbitrary reason, they’ll live their lives like a canary in a coalmine — collapsing at the first sign of danger.
For some, the future is quite scary to ponder. But living life stuck, like a canary in a coalmine, is often detrimental. Sometimes it’s worth it to do something because of one’s intrinsic desires, regardless of what others may think. A singular indication of danger is not indicative of an aggregated reaction or consequence to a particular decision. Risks are important to take, within reason of course, but all too often — especially in poker — I see people too “tight” within their own skin, afraid to stretch beyond the comforts of their own world. I’m definitely guilty of the same line of reasoning, but I’ve learned all too often that without risk there is no reward. Even if I might lose, the thrill of the mere possibility of winning with an arbitrarily poor hand in poker gets me going. The dopamine-induced ambition that comes from the slightest bit of hope is something I’ve always clung to — so much so that I’ve been identified by some as an individual that spends “too much effort on problems even when there is a low probability of success.” Sure, that might be a bad thing — but who cares? Sometimes the rush is what defines the action, and without risk and thrill life is simply monotonous. Argue. Say no. Go for it — you have nothing to lose (within reason of course).
Life is short. Memories, experiences, and actions are all cultivated and influenced by our behavior. It is pointless, frankly, to dwell upon trivialities and continue to spend our lives pettifogging, building castles of regret in the air. Engage in those activities and values with which you are driven by and have passion for. Life is a journey, not a series of outcomes. Enjoy and take pride in the little things and don’t contrast your happiness with others’. For, if one is happy, then they have fulfilled their purpose — regardless of the plight of others. In our short, often forgetful canvases of experience we often waste space painting strokes of regret rather than splattering our canvas with circles of happiness. Don’t be so dizzy walking in a straight line and, surely, don’t live your life like a canary in a coalmine.