By Manny Roman, CRES
I was having a few cold ones and good conversation with some of my neighbors one beautiful Vegas night. We do this often and since we are all older, we can repeat the conversations and we think they are new. We never run out of repeated subjects.
On this particular night, a neighbor asked how I was doing with my poker playing. I again provided my standard answer that I am approaching my goal of becoming a mediocre poker player. This always garners a few chuckles and a toast. Then, the conversation took a different path from the normal. Or maybe I don’t remember having this discussion before. And they didn’t either.
One of the retired fighter pilots asked me why I would gamble with my hard earned money in this way. I have an answer for that also: it is not gambling if your decisions matter. Gambling is putting money in a slot machine and hoping for the best. In poker, you make many decisions based on your knowledge, expertise, opponents’ actions, their body language, betting patters, blah, blah, blah. The point is that poker contains a great deal of skill at the highest levels and a medium amount at the mediocrity level.
My retired dragster neighbor still had doubts even with my eloquent explanation of evaluating equity and risk during a poker hand. Then, it occurred to me that their chosen professions were overflowing with risk. A fighter pilot and a dragster questioning my risking $5 to buy into a poker game seemed illogical to me. I threw this discussion in their direction and listened carefully as they defended risking their lives while I risked $5.
It seems that their risks were calculated risks. They knew the capabilities of their machines. They had extensive training and experience. They had the best possible safety equipment and a highly competent support crew. They calculated that their chances of survival were excellent. They were willing to take the calculated risk.
We laughed and retold old stories of old times, drank more cold ones and drifted off into the oblivion of memories and old glories. It was a wonderful time that none of us will remember and I look forward to repeating the conversations in the future.
Why am I boring you with this? The next day, I had one moment of near clarity through the morning fog. Life is rife with risk. Most of the risk is unavoidable. You must get into your car and risk the drive to work. You must have that conversation with your boss or your team members. You must remember your anniversary. We take calculated and uncalculated risks all the time.
It is those situations where we don’t calculate the risk that will likely get us into trouble. When we do not take the time to evaluate options and the risk vs. reward of each choice, that is gambling. Gambling is plowing ahead without thought of consequences. Gambling is avoiding the work required to explore ways to improve the chances of success while minimizing the risk of failure.
Gambling is also when the requisite knowledge for success is ignored. Gambling is not surrounding yourself with the people and other physical and emotional items that will reduce your risk of failure. Gambling is not seeking advice from those who can help you. Gambling is having fear of failure with its accompanying freezing effects. Gambling is being too proud or fearful to admit that assistance is needed. Gambling is not accepting responsibility and accountability for actions. Gambling is refusal to learn from mistakes, both your own and those of others.
My neighbors had incredible knowledge, experience and support systems in place. What they did for a living was definitely not gambling. Think about what you do for a living and life. Be sure that you are taking calculated risks and are not gambling.
Each month, I take a calculated risk that what I write is of interest to a few of you. I carefully evaluate what I say and how I present it. I have proofreaders ensure that sense is made and interest is piqued. Well, not really.
I gamble that my long-winded and winding prose reaches the very busy editor of this publication and he gives it marginal evaluation prior to forwarding for printing. Mediocrity in poker is not my only aspiration as evidenced by my writing.
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