I love me some poker. Not enough to make a living at it, but enough to keep ponying up to the table for a game. Such a great game, with so many great parallels to human behavior. Anyone who’s played poker for any extended length of time is familiar with the term “bad beat.” For the uninitiated, a “bad beat” is a nicer euphemism for “I got royally screwed.” Every player has a story; a time when a seemingly unbeatable hand turns into a loser through a series of events outside of your control.

These stories always speak to the improbable nature of what transpired,i.e. “he needed three running hearts to win…” Even more unbearable is the bad beat at the hands of a neophyte; someone who goes “All In” with 7/5 off-suit, then proceeds to hit a Full House on the flop, laugh at you in front of your buddies, then go back to watching the “Property Brothers” on HGTV (purely hypothetical, Honey, this has nothing to do with you.)

"Et tu, Grandma?"

“Et tu, Grandma?”

Without boring you with more hip lingo, there’s a lesson to be learned in these situations. Whether it’s a job interview, a sales call, a promotion opportunity….stuff happens. Not only does stuff happen, but most of the time it’s something completely out of your control. The real question is, how do you respond to a bad beat?

  • Screaming Mimi ~ Chances are, the person throwing a fit is someone who hasn’t played enough poker; get over yourself, we all have stories of times when the cards didn’t go our way. You keep playing, mark it up to experience, knowing with certainty that the unexpected is always a possibility.
  • Get Religion ~ I have buddies who no longer play cards with the group; they may sit and watch, but they got burned & gave up the game – a kind of self-imposed sideline “benching.” True, they won’t lose another hand of Hold ‘Em, but they won’t win any hands either.
  • Full Tilt ~ One of the cooler terms in poker is “on tilt.” Emotionally wrecked after an unexpected loss, the player begins recklessly betting due to the seismic shift in the expected outcome of a lost hand. In other words, they get goofy with negative emotion and lose the ability to play with reason. This is an erratic and short-lived condition in which to operate; if you’re unable to quickly get past the emotion of the unexpected, you won’t be at the table very long.

Bad beats happen to us all, and we know they are ahead. Focus on the controllable aspects of the game and learn to live with the unexpected in as certain a fashion as you do the daily sunrise.

Price Pritchett, Ph.D, in his book “Hacking Uncertainty“, explains it this way: “We are all products of choice and chance. Working in tandem with circumstances that life puts before us, we choose our moves, and so become co-designers of our future.”

Now….quit talkin’ and deal ’em.