"If winning isn't everything,
why do they keep score?"
Rob Chiller has rediscovered the joys of speaking his mind after a decade-long stint
in Corporate America. When not behind a keyboard, Rob can be found offering his
unsolicited opinions on life to anyone who happens to be passing by his house.
Admittedly, it's a little strange for any article in a health-related magazine
to begin with "Squinting through my cigarette smoke, I gazed thoughtfully at the
Video Poker screen." After all, smoking is a filthy, disgusting, unhealthy,
expensive habit, and should never be glamorized in any way, shape, or form.
And gambling, while capable of providing us with amazing highs and lows, is
rarely a vehicle for self-awareness or self-improvement.
Alas, providence is not always an appropriate mistress. Sometimes, she seems
to reward us for detrimental behaviors, and provide inspiration in the most
uninspired places. And so it happened that I learned a valuable life lesson
while smoking in a casino. Here's the story:
Squinting through my cigarette smoke, I gazed thoughtfully at the Video Poker
screen. I was playing a version of five-card draw called Jacks-or-Better, and
was down to my last 25 credits. I had just been dealt a pat flush, with the Two,
Jack, Queen, King and Ace of hearts. A very good hand, worth another 25 credits
and another twenty minutes of playing time. As I reached to cash in on this
effortless hand, I dropped cigarette ash on my leg. The exclamation that followed
got the attention of my wife and her friend, who were playing on machines next to
Copyright © November 2003 Rob Chiller and Low Carb Luxury
My wife, Marie, looked pleased at the hand I had. "Oh, a flush," she said,
On the other hand, her friend Teresa wore an expression that suggested I had just
punched an infant. "What are you doing?!" she asked. "You're one card away from
the Royal Flush!"
It was true. If I discarded the two of hearts, and drew the ten of hearts, I would
have the granddaddy of all poker hands. Worth a cool 4,000 credits, it would be a
small windfall. And all I had to do was throw away a sure thing.
What to do? Numerous cliches ran through my head — Should I "go for the gusto?"
Should I try to open "the door of opportunity?" Or is a bird in the hand indeed
worth two in the bush?
When in doubt, I like to check the math. In this particular case, I needed one
specific card out of the remaining 47... which put my chances of hitting the Royal
Flush at about 2.1%. Two percent is rarely an inspiring number, unless one is discussing
milk. However, the chances of me hitting the Royal Flush by accepting the hand I was
dealt was a nice, round ZERO percent.
So the question became why was I playing? What was my goal?
As I glanced at my wife,
she shook her head slowly at me. She was playing just for the sake of playing. She
had brought a set amount of money to the Casino, which had been earmarked for a loss.
Her goal was simply to get as much play-time as possible out of her money. If she
were me, she would just take the flush dealt to her, and continue to play happily
until the money ran out.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with this approach. As a matter of fact, it is this
attitude that makes Marie the Sole Keeper of the Checkbook in our household. It's her
who keeps me in check when I suggest some great money-making scheme, like investing
in Enron or WorldCom. Her prudence makes certain we are continuous players in this
game of Life.
But, in this case, I didn't want to just play - I wanted to win.
And so, with a heavy sigh, I discarded my Two.
I think it's safe to say that if I hadn't hit the Ten of hearts to complete my miracle
hand, you would not be reading this article right now. No, you would be reading a
completely different article, probably one about how Casinos victimize us honest,
As it turns out, the risk paid off, and I walked away with my new fortune.
Yes, life is a funny little thing. If I hadn't been smoking, I would never have dropped
ash on my leg, and would never have even considered going for the Royal Flush. Was I
being rewarded for my revolting habit? Probably not. My reward for smoking won't come
for several years, when I develop golfball-sized tumors in my lungs. No, I would say
Fate simply used my nicotine addiction to show me a larger lesson.
Now, I would love to sit here and tell you that the moral of this story is that you should
always go for the long-shot, should always aim for the highest point, should
always take the two percent chance of big success. Unfortunately, if I gave you
this advice (and you listened), you would end up failing 98 percent of the time... and
quite frankly, I don't want that responsibility.
What I will say is this: When faced with a situation like mine, you should stop and
think. Consider carefully what you can gain if you succeed, and what you stand to
lose if you don't. Analyze the benefits of winning, and the detriments to failing.
Then examine the empty regret of not even trying.
Whether you're trying to lose weight, applying for a new job, or seeking a Royal Flush
of your own, life is replete with opportunities for risk-taking. Is it always worth
it? Obviously, there is no pat answer to that. But at the end of the day, when all
the cards are on the table, the message seems clear:
If you can afford to, always play to win big.