CONSOLATION TWENTY-EIGHT: POKER
Always a favorite hobby, poker has become something more to me now that I'm in my late seventies. It's the one competitive activity I can still do with men and women a third my age. Can't do it in sports -- in golf, the only sport I can still play without tearing myself apart, I have to use the senior tees. Can't do it professionally -- I'm retired from all that. Only in poker can I still sit down with 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-, and 60-year-olds and match wits for hours in a contest whose criterion for success or failure is wonderfully clear: when I get up from the table, have I won their money, or have they won mine? All serious poker players know this is what finally counts.
But they also know they'll often lose. So much of the game depends on luck (I'd say about eighty percent) that everyone who regularly plays accepts losing as an unavoidable fact of poker life. For me, the key to managing loss is limiting how much I let myself lose in a single day -- two hundred bucks. This past weekend I was careless. On Friday, at the newly-opened poker room in Perryville, Maryland, I won $200, then came back Sunday and lost that $200 plus $200 more. I've kicked myself ever since for not quitting when that first $200 went missing.
On the other hand, if your cards are good you ought to take advantage of them as long as the run lasts and stop only when you're sure it's over. Two weeks ago during Easter weekend I played on Good Friday at the Delaware Park poker room, had an exceptional run, and quit when my winnings throttled back from over $700 to $600. Two days later, Easter Sunday, I played again, this time at Perryville, and by following the same plan came away with $400 more. The Perryville win doubtless helped me lose there this past weekend, encouraging me to overplay several hands I normally fold and to drop that Sunday $400. Winning can make you do that until losing clears your head and sobers you up. The only comfort I take from the Sunday loss is that it suggests my Easter win the weekend before was probably not the result of divine intervention. (Here follow circa 1500 words explaining the no-limit poker I always play and how compatible it is philosophically with my atheistic materialism. The complete text, originally posted 4/27/13 on my personal blog, can be viewed by clicking here onto: [consolationsofatheism.blogspot.com])