The Guarantee

So Dragon, Are you a gambler? For a while, I tried to make a living playing poker. And, as almost anyone who watched me play would tell you, by the time I walked away from it, I was pretty good at the game itself. I learned a massive amount from the game of poker. It is a game much like real life, and the lessons it will teach you are life lessons. The caveat is you have to be willing to learn from it. If you aren’t, it will break you, and in ways so much more devastating than the loss of money.

Poker is a risk / reward game. The bigger the risk you are willing to take, the bigger the reward you can receive. Life is a risk / reward game also. This is one of the reasons the lessons you learn in poker are so applicable to life.

I remember the first time I really played for money. I can’t remember playing for money when I was growing up. It was always for fun. If there was any money involved, then, it was nickels & dimes or the like. I put in $100 & lost it in a short period of time. I was so frustrated. I was mad. I was embarrassed. And, I was determined not to let it happen to me again.

I promptly started doing some research on poker books. Found the best deal on the 5 I thought were best & ordered them. I wish I had done the research on what media mail delivery times tend to be. Let’s just say, it was a month before I got the books. I also went to local book store & bought a book to have in my hot little hands right then. Poker had taught me my first lesson – invest in yourself first.

We will receive an education in life one way or another. We can pay for it in time, effort, experience, and failures. Or, we could also pay for it by investing in ourselves. Make no mistake, you will have to learn the long, hard way sometimes, but sometimes you can learn things upfront that will keep you from having to learn it all in a painful way.

I also remember when I stopped trying to play poker for a living. I remember when & why I walked away. I wasn’t out of money. Over the lifetime of my poker career, I was still what one would consider a winning poker player (probably what I’m most proud of from that time in my life). A winning player is someone who is up (in the plus money won column) overall. I was never a great player. In my situation, I was never going to be a great poker player because I didn’t have enough gamble in me.

To be a really great player you need to be able to take a lot of risk in the moment. If you can’t take a lot of risk in the moment, you can’t make the correct decisions, and there is no quicker way to go broke. Here is the question posed to me which changed my life:

You are sitting at the World Series of Poker main event, and you are “on the button” (on the button means last to act). Everyone in front of you looks at their cards & goes “All In”. You look down at your cards & see Aces. What is the correct decision, and what would you do?

Do you fold, thinking, Aces are only 81% to win a hand heads up (against one other player in the hand) & the percentage goes down with each other person in the hand? Do you call, thinking, I have the best hand in the game & all you can do is get all your money in with the best hand? Or, do you fold, thinking, I have a better chance to survive & win the tournament if I sit this one out? If I call and lose, my tournament is over & I go home with $10k less money (the cost of the entry to the tournament).

I have debated this question a lot. I’ve read the perspective of many a poker player on it. But in the end, the correct answer came from a poker pro. You call the “all in”. You have the best starting hand in No Limit Hold ‘Em (NLHE) poker. All you can do is get all your money in with the best hand.

If your answer is anything other than, “call the all in”, then you don’t have enough gamble to play poker professionally. I didn’t. I had to be honest with myself, I didn’t want to win enough to risk it all. I wanted the guarantee. I wanted to bet my aces on the outcome, not on the situation at hand. There is no guarantee on the outcome of ANY single hand. You don’t get one. I have been in hands before where I was a 99.7% favorite to win, and still lost. I’ve also been in hands where I was 100% to lose the hand & still won (I bluffed).

Now, there is a guarantee in poker. If you have a correct bankroll & always get your money in with the best hand, you will, over time, be a winning poker player. It’s the math of it. It’s exactly the way the casinos make their money. If you look at the slot machines in a casino they have their % payout listed. It’s usually 98% or so. This means, that over the lifetime of that slot machine it keeps 2% of everything put into it. The house can’t lose. Over time, the 2% edge will break the wealthiest person. But, sometimes, the in short run, the machines payout. Even so, anytime someone pulls a slot machine lever, they lose 2%. The goal in poker, is to become the slot machine. Take the best of it every time.

It’s the same guarantee we have in life. If you give yourself the best chance to win each time you go after a goal or make a decision, then you are going to succeed over the long term. And that’s the guarantee. Look at the big picture, Dragon, and realize if you are taking the best of it with each thing you work on, you will win over time. In the short term, know there will be losses & learning. There will be wins. Your job is to do the best you can with the information you have at the time & keep moving forward.

In the game of poker, like in the game of life, you have to be willing to call the “All In” because it’s a risk / reward game we’re playing & it’s the only way to win.

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