Poker is a microcosm of life – a miniature version

Oct 1, 2013 3:00 AM

Jack Collins has been a member of our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group almost from its start about eight years ago.

Jack has been an active and valued participant, volunteering in our various activities, including several charity poker events we have held to help support our senior center, still suffering from budget cuts imposed by the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks. He also volunteers for Meals on Wheels to bring hot lunches to needy shut-ins.

So, I was all ears when Jack offered an interesting comment about the game of poker: “If you understand poker, you understand life.”

Interesting perspective, I thought.  It sort of fits in with my concept that poker is a microcosm of life – a miniature version. Both have their ups and downs; both involve risk-taking; luck is a factor in both; skill is essential for success (including getting well educated); both involve social interaction of one type or another.

There are so many aspects of playing poker that apply to living, one could write a book about it. For example, just as in poker, tells can make a big difference in our daily lives. When a young couple date for the first time, and they are all smiles and listening with genuine interest in what each has to say, that’s just like observing tells when playing poker.

And, speaking of tells, even the sound of one’s voice as well as body motions speak volumes both in life and at the poker table.

In life, whether or not we realize it, we are constantly evaluating our co-workers, customers, and others with whom we are involved so that we can better interact with each. So, too, at the poker table we observe our opponents to better understand how they play their hands and what type of player each is – tight or loose, passive or aggressive, a maniac, deceptive, timid, or a Calling Station.

In both the game of poker and the game of life, on occasion, we encounter disappointments and have to learn to accept these experiences – and improve so, perhaps, we can avoid these in the future.

Getting “rivered” at the poker table is an unhappy event, but it does happen. So, too, in life the unexpected sometimes occurs. Call it fate or luck. Nevertheless, it can hurt. Bad beats do happen!

Understanding our mistakes, we can better learn from them. For example, I have learned not to try to bluff out a Calling-Station. So, too, in life we must understand our associates as well as family members so we can better deal with their foibles and habits.

While playing poker, it’s a good idea to take a break now and then. Go outside the casino for a brisk walk; breathe the fresh air; clear your brain; think about the game and how you can do better when you return to the table. I guess that’s why vacations were invented and are so important in our lives.

Yes, I agree with Jack. Understand poker and you understand life! But there are some differences.

Unless you are teaching a poker class, it’s not prudent to point out your opponents’ mistakes. Sure, that’s fine when dealing with a friend or one of your children (grandchildren, too), perhaps a co-worker; you want to improve their performance and help him to enjoy a better life. But that doesn’t apply when playing at the poker table. Let your opponents make all the mistakes they can. That’s to your advantage!

What’s more, it’s perfectly legal to lie at the poker table – something we teach our children never to do. While we abhor cheating when playing poker, it’s perfectly OK to steal the blinds or bluff out your opponents.

Check-raise is a great way to extract more chips from your opponent. Likewise, so is trapping your poker buddies when you catch a monster hand. Keep them in the hand so you can later win more chips from them.

So, what is your opinion? A prize to the reader who submits the best response within the next two weeks.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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