A Gambling Man

by M.J. Hearle

My wife was away for work recently so I found myself with a free night. Unsure what to do  I decided to try for a cliché – poker night with the boys. This, despite the fact I’d never played poker before. So the boys came round and we started playing poker – texas hold ’em to be exact. The first few rounds we played for nothing but our pride and then, once we were all comfortable with the rules (I wasn’t the only naif) we started playing for money. Not a lot of money but enough to keep things interesting.

An image of a person playing the poker varient...

An image of a person playing the poker varient, Texas Hold’em (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was keeping my head above water until midway in the game when I decided to gamble big. This was my hand – Ten of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, King of Hearts, and Ace of Hearts. All I needed was the Jack and I would have had a royal flush. A pretty much unbeatable hand. Three cards had yet to be turned over and I became convinced one of them was going to be the Jack.

Why, was I so certain? In every movie I’d ever seen about gambling when the hero was faced with a similar set of odds they bet big and won. Fate, according to Hollywood, rewards the brave and I had no reason to doubt Hollywood. It’s telling of my generally whimsical state of mind that I was shocked and disappointed when the Jack didn’t magically appear. Of course, it didn’t appear. The odds that it would have appeared were ridiculously poor. Not for the first time I was punished for confusing Hollywood reality with actual reality.

When I revealed my cards, Lee, one of the more experienced players, was shocked I’d bet so high when I had such a rubbish hand. I explained to him that I was banking on the Jack being turned over and geez, well wouldn’t that have been cool? A royal flush! How often does that happen? Lee shook his head sadly and offered me this advice – ‘Play the hand you have. Not the hand you hope to have.’

This struck me as being probably the greatest, most sensible advice of all time. For a while, anyway. And then I started thinking how often in my life I’d played the hand I hoped to have. When I asked my future wife out on a date, I had no reason to believe she’d say yes, when I bid at an open auction for our future house there was very little chance we’d win, when I decided to write my first book the chance of ever getting published was slim to none. And yet here I am married to a wonderful person, living in a beautiful home and two books sit in the shelf with my name on them.

So, I think I’ll keep I’ll keep betting big on nothing but a dream. Sooner or later that old Jack will turn up. I know it.