(Our nation is living in lockdown due to the coronavirus. The news is grim. Survival is critical, physically and economically. It helps to put things in perspective. I hope this Weakly Post will lighten your spirits and give you reason for hope.)
The Luck of the Draw
There are 52 cards in a deck and 52 weeks a year to play them. Possibilities are endless. Outcomes often depend on the luck of the draw.
In cards, like life, there are winners and losers. One can only play the hand they’re dealt. Fate is the dealer; nerves, skill and luck play the hand. But the game’s never over until the last card is played.
Driving along I-95 I pass a man walking. A blue duffle is slung over his shoulder, a wool cap pulled low. His ragged appearance suggests he’s drawn a hard hand to play.
My friend, Pappy, plays poker every Thursday night. He’s had run-ins with losing hands. He usually drops by the next morning to boast or lament. His eyes reveal how the game went.
Today he eases into the leather chair in my office, all smiles. I ask how the game went.
He winks. “Got lucky,” he says.
“How so?” I ask.
“Well, I had this feeling, you know, like when my stars are in alignment.”
“Betting on that star algorithm again? Remember last time?”
He scratches the stubble on his chin. “Yeah, bad karma that night. Luck skipped out on me. But this time was different. Like my golf. I triple-bogie every hole, throw my clubs and swear I’m never playing again. Then one day a hole in one. I keep coming back for more ridicule.”
I laugh. “Well, Pappy, have you ever calculated your win-loss ratio, like having a budget for your habit?”
“Nah, man, nobody does that. It’s not about how much you win or lose; it’s all about betting and bluffing. Money is just the score. Besides, we play friendly poker.”
“Is money involved?”
“Of course,” he answers. “That’s the thrill of it.”
“Well, brother, where money’s concerned, there’s no such thing as a friendly game. Beyond a certain point there’s nothing friendly about money, especially if you’re losing.”
He thinks about it. “Never thought about it that way. I guess ‘friendly’ is a relative term, huh?”
“Poker is like fighting,” I say. “You have to play to learn, and you only learn when the cards are dealt and your money’s on the table. But forget about my philosophy. How’d it go last night?”
Pappy becomes animated, sits on the edge of the chair. “Get the picture. Six of us playing Texas Hold ‘em. We’re betting heavy. Everyone’s counting on luck. Me, I’m down to my last chips. Might be my last game. Good thing we’re not playing strip poker.”
“I’m sitting across from Leet Bohannan. He’s cornered most of the chips and looks smug. Nobody’s happy about that. He keeps grinning like a Baptist preacher who’s holding four aces in the Saturday night game.”
He continues. “Rocky deals ‘em up. I look at my two hole cards. Two deuces. I figure I might as well fold. Deuces never win.”
“The betting begins. Rocky deals three open cards on the table—a five, an ace and a deuce. Suddenly my hand’s starting to look interesting, so I hang in there, bet and raise.”
“Already counting your money, huh?” I say.
“Yeah, man. That’s when this feeling about my stars kicks in.”
“Napoleon had the same star feeling, Pappy. Know what happened to him?”
He ignores the comment. “Rocky deals the 4th card. A queen. Leet raises. He sits there smiling like he just shook hands with God, but I think he’s bluffing. So I match him and raise. The others fold.”
“Leet raises again. I shove everything I have on the table, including my glass eye, Timex watch, truck keys and my last two Viagra pills, and call. The table gets so quiet you can hear the temperature drop.”
“I figure Leet maybe holds one ace and thinks three will win. Who wouldn’t? Hard to lose with 3 aces. He lights up a cigar. Rocky deals the final Showdown card. Can you believe it, a deuce?”
“I can’t believe it myself. My four lowly deuces trump his three aces. Who’d ever think deuces would win anything?”
“Leet withers, the others laugh. I buy the drinks.”
Life deals us cards every day. Our money’s on the table. Some have more, others less. But everyone has chips. The question is, “Will we bet, bluff or fold?”
I think about the fellow walking along the interstate. How will he play his hand of deuces? I wonder how I’ll play mine. How about you?
March 30, 2020