Poker Stakes

I was recently in New Orleans for a speaking engagement and I had some down time, so I wandered into a local casino. I like to play poker, so I found a table, got my chips, and started to play.

Before I knew it, I had been sitting there for a couple of hours. Sometimes I was up and sometimes I was down. At a point where I was just about breaking even, I decided that it was time to go.

If you’ve ever been to a casino yourself, then you know that this was a pivotal moment. Sometime you know it’s time to go but you don’t always listen to yourself and leave when you know you should. Well, I didn’t either, and I decided to stay for a couple more hands.

It was then that I got some decent cards and when the last card flipped, I had a flush. A flush! I won a ton of money in that hand, putting myself back up again, but did I walk away? Noooooo. Because I was suddenly so lucky, I decided to stay a few more hands.

Shortly, I found myself getting really good cards again. I had a baby straight—(that’s an Ace, 2, 3, 4, and 5, if you’re not a poker player) —so I just knew I was on a roll. That is, until another guy at the table had a higher straight and I lost everything. In one split second, my fortune was gone.

Isn’t this how life goes sometimes? You’re going along and doing okay, but then you reach a crossroads. Do you stay at the table, continuing to do what you’ve been doing and potentially “win,” or do you walk away and potentially save yourself from losing it all?

Unfortunately, this is rarely a clear-cut choice because we don’t know exactly what the future will bring. All we know is what we think will happen based on the decision we’re about to make.

For instance, had I walked away from the poker table the very first time I thought about it that day, I would’ve left the casino with the same amount of cash I had when I went in. I wouldn’t have gained anything, but I wouldn’t have lost anything either.

Then, when I continued to play on and won, I could’ve walked away then too. At that point in time, I was pretty far ahead and would’ve have definitely ended my gambling stint on a win.

Yet, I didn’t step away from the table either time and I ultimately lost it all…the money I walked in with and the money I had won. Granted, that’s what most people do when gambling which is why casinos make so much money, but my point is that the difference between all three scenarios was just one hand.

When you’re faced with a decision, there often isn’t a clear line between winning and losing, between failure and success. However, as long as you remember what’s at stake and the possible outcomes each choice could create, at least then your decision will be an informed one. Sometimes, that’s the best we can do.

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