Lessons for life from a game of poker



Sometimes certain mundane experiences offer us profound insights into the essence of life. Such was one of my experiences with an auto driver which incidentally was the first post that launched me as a blogger. In reminiscence of that, I thought I will write one more experience which triggered a similar thought process. Last time the experience was in the physical world. This experience is in the virtual world – on Facebook.

Facebook has lot of games, many of which can get addictive. One such interesting game is poker. It is not too different from the poker of real world. But you can play online whenever you want and you don’t have to go to a club and the best of all – you can play without spending real money. After losing lot of games and winning quite a few, I have managed to chalk out a few winning strategies. I have tried them and they work. Not that I am now winning all the time though. But whenever I lose, it is not because of the failure of the strategy as such but rather my failure to stick to the strategy. Execution is after all as critical as strategy if not more. Thinking about it, I felt in some ways the poker game reflects life in general and the lessons could possibly be applied to life in general as well.

There are three things I have learnt. Don’t be a monkey. Be a donkey. Put all your eggs in one damn good basket.

I have often seen people betting real high with cards as low as a Q and a 4, that too of different suits. And what more! They even manage to win. And the win is often humongous. But whenever I try to imitate them and bid high with average cards, I invariably end up losing big. So I concluded that there is no point imitating someone else. If my brain and heart tell me the cards in my hand are not winners, most probably they are not. Even in life, I have realized, it is better to use one’s own judgment rather than go with the herd or blindly imitate the successful person. Monkey see, monkey do. But we are no monkeys. So we see, but analyze and do only what our brain tells us to do.



One way I often end up losing money is through sheer rashness. When I continuously lose hands, I have often begun to lose patience and either end up playing rashly or quit before that elusive winning hand comes. Some hands are such that no matter what you do, you just can’t win. The trick is in identifying those hands and cutting your losses on those. Donkeys are legendary for patience of this kind. In life also I feel this holds good. Sometime things start going bad at home and office and there is nothing we can do. Best thing is to accept the situation and see how one can keep the losses to minimum and bide one's time till the return of good times.



Finally, after all the waiting I get that dream hand. But I am fearful and play conservatively and end up winning much less than what I could have or still worse chicken out and fold early! That way I never make it big in the game. The only way to make it big is to go for the kill when the time is ripe. When I bet big on that lucky hand, I win big. Though common wisdom says not to put all eggs in one basket, one who does not want to commit oneself unless one is 100% sure of success can never rise beyond mediocrity.




In order to avoid giving an impression that I am drawing arbitrary analogies where there are none, I would like to give examples of instances from my life where each one of these worked. When I was preparing for my MBA entrance exams, the most popular strategy was to register for classes. But I chose not to waste my precious time on classes. Instead I focused on taking mock tests, identifying my weaknesses and specifically focusing on that. Not being a monkey paid of rich dividends and I managed admission to one of the top business schools in the country.

When I was working in the IT sector, I could see everyone going onsite and making big money. The ones who did not get opportunity migrated to greener pastures and made it big. But I just held on, without either quitting or spoiling relationship with my superiors by doing something rash. After 3 years, my time came. I got a long onsite assignment, my ESOP prices went up and eventually I got promoted as well. When I looked back I found myself better off than my colleagues who did not have the patience of a donkey and quit midway or nagged their superiors too much.

During my school days, we had quite a few options – board exams, state engineering entrance, IIT entrance. Most students generally tried to keep all the options open. But to me it was clear, I had the same amount of time as all the other students and my intelligence level was at best average. So I had to be successful, I had to do something different. So I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and focus on IIT JEE alone. Many of my much more intelligent classmates lost out on IIT, and their performance on board exams and state entrance also was also impacted by the time spent on IIT JEE preparation. I on the other hand had performed dismally in state entrance and board exam, but was one of the two students from my school, one of the five from my entire town to make it to IIT.





16 comments:

jaish_vats said...

Hi TF

Those are definitely valuable lessons whether taught by Poker or an autodriver or whosoever! .... Interesting post!

C. Suresh said...

Illuminating, TF! haven't been a monkey, have been a donkey but am still holding all my eggs waiting for that one basket :)

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, jaishree.

The Fool said...

Thanks, CS. Lol. Hope one day you find that one basket. Isn't that what we all are looking for?

umashankar said...

"Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of "self preservation" than exhibited by horses."
-Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Apparently, following the donkey is beneficial to health and many wise men, including rare IITians, have benefited from taking a leaf from their wisdom! :D

I have of late been following an asinine trajectory too....

The Fool said...

Donkeys indeed are fascinating animals, umashankar. If I had not taken the alias TF, I would have taken Benjamin the donkey after the donkey in George Orwell's anumal farm.

Stan Szczesny said...

Funny, I thought of Benjamin while reading the post.

It's not in poker, but in the Fool, that you see all that you see in poker.

Rickie said...

I think I am a monkey! No wonder I never win. And because I am also a donkey, I have never ever changed strategies!
Valuable lessons, these...hehhehh!

Sabyasachi Patra | Tales from Wild India said...

interesting analogies. I agree that there is no point in following the herd. Chart out your own course. I have had my share of herd mentality during my MBA days. One needs to be determined and doggedly follow the path come storm or rain.

Shashiprakash Saini said...

interesting post TF
i am mix of moneky and donkey

The Fool said...

Thanks, Stan. Nice to see you back on my blog.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Rickie. I am sure you are no monkey. You are known for originality at least on your blog.

The Fool said...

Thanks sabyasachi.Glad my thoughts found resonance with you.

The Fool said...

Thanks Shashi. Are you, really? I thought you were a iconoclast, going against your father's wishes and all.

Kappu said...

//When I looked back I found myself better off than my colleagues who did not have the patience of a donkey and quit midway or nagged their superiors too much. //

Great post TF! When I am in a dilemma whether or not to fight against - whether or not to ply into insubbordination - whether or not to to have the donkeys patience - your post comes! ;) Call it a leading star!

The Fool said...

Thanks Kappu. Glad you find my post so inspiring.

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