Lately, I have been thinking about an old poker saying that seems relevant in these challenging times. With so many of us facing the unknown, I thought this true story of being down but not out, only to rally and overcome insurmountable odds to emerge victoriously could inspire someone facing new challenges.
The phrase is "a chip and a chair."
In 1982, Jack 'Treetop' Straus was playing a hand early in the World Series of Poker when he pushed all his chips in as a raise. His opponent called and won that pot. Thinking he had been eliminated from the main event, Jack started to get up from the table when another player noticed a single $500 chip hidden under the table's edge. Since Jack hadn't said the words "all in," he still had that single chip. Treetop took that one $500 chip and mounted a legendary comeback to win the 1982 WSOP main event. The saying 'A chip and a chair' means that as long as you are still in the game, anything is possible, and I took away a few key lessons from Jack's comeback that can be applied to the challenges we are facing today.
"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but playing a poor hand well."
A good poker player can win a hand with the worst cards. That doesn't mean randomly bluff when 'you have a feeling' or 'feel lucky.' An exceptional poker player can estimate the strength of their opponent's hand by reconstructing betting patterns, physical tells, and, through a process of elimination, determine the possible hands they are facing. With these data points, calculated risks are taken, but with a clear understanding of the odds. That means knowing the potential upside while recognizing the possible losses in a changing landscape.
"Necessity is the mother of innovation." Now is the time to refine, retool, or even reinvent your life. If not, now, when? Even with good luck, success requires preparation and the discipline to roll up your sleeves and do the work. It would be easy to feel sorry for yourself and curl up in a ball right now, I get it, but the one thing you can choose every day is your attitude. Jack needed a bit of good luck to turn it around and win the 82 WSOP, but it was also a colossal grind that required constant focus, determination, and grit.
Minimize Your Losses
More often than not, the difference between a profitable night at the poker table isn't the hands you won but rather the hands you lost. Of course, you want to maximize your winnings, but more importantly, is minimizing your losses. Knowing how to reduce your losses can be as challenging in business as it is at the poker table. I can't tell you how many times I have had the absolute nuts (best possible hand) only to have everything change on the river. Knowing when you have the second-best hand in poker is a superpower that keeps great players from going broke when most players would have lost the shirt off their back. The difference is their ability to reassess the situation after each card is dealt and understand how to control the pot's size when risk is too high and to know when to let go of a hand that no longer has a chance of winning.
The key to success is playing the hand you were dealt like it was the hand you wanted. America and the world are facing unprecedented challenges. Nobody could have predicted the unusual challenges facing. How are you going to play your hand?