Friday, March 20, 2015

Poker Imitating Life

The Rewards of Friendship
Okay, let's go for a gaming post trifecta!

As I indicated in my past two posts, games often simulate real life scenarios.  In an abstract sense, games embody aspects of real life, in fact, this is likely why we enjoy them so.  Could even a game of poker be revealing as to how we can develop positive relationships?

Well, obviously there are face cards in a standard playing deck and that is coincidence enough to begin drawing parallels to making successful face to face connections with other people.

Just as in a hand of poker, you are dealt a beginning hand in life.  In Texas Hold'em, the poker game of choice for the past decade, that amounts to receiving two cards face down. In real life, one might call the first card your acquired genetic hole card, and the second your accumulated circumstance hole card.  You are stuck with those two cards no matter what you do, save cheating outright (nose jobs and repressing your past qualify).  Alas, I will not be encouraging the pursuit of such tactics in our current simulation assessment.

Sticking to the Texas Hold'em template, you now have your two cards face down and it's time to make your first bet.  Actually that's skipping an all important step: assessing not only your personal hole cards, but also the outward characteristics of other people at the table. To win a hand in poker you either have to have the final, strongest hand, or you need to scare away the rest of the field. Analogous to poker, we assess people for qualities that we find important in friendships; those qualities of course will vary depending on whether you're looking for a casual acquaintance, a hangout buddy or the evasive "one and only"soul mate.

Finally, the all important first bet:  in the extreme, your bet (check, raise, or fold inclusive) are your sole methods of official communication within the rules of the game.  Of course, unofficially there are "tells" which may prove useful as well. These "tells" pretty much include all the things you and your competitors unintentionally communicate with body language, tone of voice, etc. Similarly, communication is paramount when cultivating a nascent relationship, in part embodying the experience, and in part feeling the connection out.

In Hold'em after the first bet has been made, three new community cards, "the flop" are...well....flopped over.  New poker game information!  Information that you share equally with the rest of the table.  Which in our companion seeking analogy amounts to new shared events!  Whether it's a romantic excursion, or a conversation over a beer, or even well....hanging out at a poker tournament, the relationship is nourished by the common experiences, wehther it be an exchange of ideas, jokes, flirtation, or whatever.

In our game paradigm, after the flop we have another bet (more communication) and then the flipping of two more community cards (the "turn" and the "river") each followed by another betting cycle, which of course parallels the ongoing assessment of the progress in a growing friendship.  Each player at anytime has the option to fold, if ones hole cards aren't quite matching with all the external variables.  And so it is always our individual option, to walk away (ideally with kindness) from a friendship that is not panning out.

Nevertheless, if two or more players are still in the game after the final bet, they finally compare hands and the strongest hand collects the accumulated pot.  You might think the parallel of developing a friendship stops there, and in this case I'm going to agree!  Ideally in a mutual connection, both people should walk away with some of the winnings, some added value to show for the time and effort they invested.

Alas, a single poker hand does not make a poker game.  And so, with patience, seeking opportunities in subsequent hands, and perhaps even colluding (usually illegal in poker) to bring about a mutual acquisition of value, you just may very well develop a rewarding friendship.  If things didn't quite go according to plan, knowing yourself (and your budget) well enough to walk away with your pride (and bank account) intact for the thrill of participating is ones saving grace.

In the end if victory was not yours today, recognize tomorrow may bring yet another tourney your way!

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