Making The Best of Bad Cards

The inspiration for this post came from two places: the first was a recent blog post from Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos. The second was the excruciating string of terrible cards I was handed while playing Texas Hold ‘em a few nights back. I’ve asked my brother-in-law to help me out on this post as he is a far better card player than I am (and it is the least that he can do since he took all my money).

While I was trying to make the most of a run of bad cards, I kept thinking about the challenges of 2009. This year is going to be a struggle. Hopefully you are already committed to the game regardless of the fact that we are all looking at some dismal hands. Sadly, I didn’t walk away from the table with any money, but I did leave with some insight into how to approach the New Year.

  • Opportunity is Cyclical – You won’t always get bad cards. It might take a while, but over the long run everyone is dealt the same amount of good hands. The winners are often separated because they know how to play the bad ones. Anyone can wake up with Aces and take down a pot, but the true winners can make a bad hand good and a good hand great.
  • Be Aware of Existing Opportunities – Study the players, study the situations and keep your head in the game. You can lose focus while waiting around for a playable hand, take this time and learn your opponent’s habits. If you can’t play your cards, you are going to have to play the players.
  • Create New Opportunities – You can’t just wait for the cards to come your way. You need to change your style of play to create “luck” where none exists. Be proactive, if you simply react to the game, you have no chance of changing it.
  • Leverage All Opportunities – When things are not going well, you need to make the most out of every good hand. If you are overzealous, you will likely make a mistake and leave money on the table. The key to making the most of a good hand is to slow down and analyze the situation. How can I make the most out of this one opportunity?

When all is said and done, poker is a game of proactive patience. You can’t just sit back and wait for cards, you have to be aware of even the slightest opportunity. When things are going well, everything is easier and it often seems like you cannot make a mistake. When things are bad, one misstep could be the end of your evening.

As we head into 2009, we need to learn to play a whole new game. Things are going to be harder and the cards are just not going to come our way. The key is to be in it to win it. Just because it seems like the odds are against you, it doesn’t mean that the game is lost.

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