Sunday Snippet: Voltaire's View on Cards

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”

He may have been called François-Marie Arouet by his mother, but the rest of the world knew him by his pen name. Voltaire rose to fame as a French Enlightenment writer, essayist and philosopher, but it turns out that he knew a thing or two about playing cards too. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that the above quote came from someone like Doyle Brunson or Daniel Negreanu.

It really is interesting how the game of poker is a reflection of the circumstances that all of us face over the course of our lives. Indeed, you cannot choose the cards that you are dealt. You cannot choose your parents. You cannot choose whether you are born as a prince or a pauper. You cannot choose if you happen to be born in Kenya or Kentucky. These are the cards you are dealt and you must first learn to accept them.

In life, as in poker, you may not have any control over the cards you are dealt, but you absolutely have control over how you are going to play those cards. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the player who is dealt the more favorable cards may not necessarily win the game. The player dealt lesser cards may be able to “outplay” his opponent through prudent betting and bluffing. Maybe he just gets lucky. That happens too.

You may look down on your cards, telling yourself that there is no way you can win with them. Maybe you lose your job and fall on hard times. Maybe you are stricken with an illness. However, you have the opportunity to reinterpret bad news into something more positive. With the right skills and mindset, you can turn a “garbage hand” into a winning hand. You can turn nothing into something.

On the flip side, you also have to remember that you can just as easily be dealt a strong hand and lose the game. Kenny Rogers once told us that we should know when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away, and when to run. Life is about taking the right risks and making the right decisions. You can’t control the cards, but you can control your actions.

Before you start to yearn for the seemingly greener grass on the other side, think about how you can best play with the grass that you have. With a little luck and determination, 10-2 might net you a championship after all.