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Settling Down or UP


AUTHORS NOTE: I opened the video poker app to take a photo for the blog post and on my first try, I JUST GOT A ROYAL FLUSH. So there you have it... EXPECT TO REACH YOUR GOAL AND YOU WILL I hope you enjoy this week's blog post...

So here is a long story. Bear with me and there will be a point, I promise.

Soon after we got engaged, X took a job at a commercial construction company in Las Vegas, Nevada. After the honeymoon, I joined him there.

The honeymoon is the long story part of this post. Not the trip itself, it was pretty standard , as far as honeymoons go; it is the procurement of the trip that is somewhat unusual.

X purchased the trip from someone in his office who had won it. This person was an elderly gentleman, of the CB radio and overalls persuasion. As he put it, “What in tarnation would I want with a seven night trip to Honolulu?” This man had won the trip by playing video poker at the Gold Coast Casino, a hazy, smoke filled off-strip bastion of gaming for locals.

That isn’t so remarkable. What resonates with me some thirty years later is the man’s approach to his game of choice.

It’s In the Cards

Video poker is pretty much like playing regular poker. You’re dealt a hand and you decide what to do with it based on what’s in your hand. So, basically, a lot like life.

Two pair, a straight, a full house- those are nice, but what you are going for is the royal flush, the big kahuna of poker hands. For those of you who don’t know, a royal flush consists of a ten, jack, queen, king and ace, all in the same suit.

That’s the goal. If you are playing a quarter machine and you get a royal flush on a max bet of $1.25, you would make about $1000. Or, in this case, an all expense paid trip to Hawaii that you can sell to someone in your office for $800.

Right nice of him.

Anyway, I’m talking about his method here, so let’s move on.

Video poker was his game and he played it often. Very often. And, he hit about five royal flushes a year. That was unbelievable to me. I played on our computer, (yeah, we had one.) I would sit at the giant hulking apparatus and dial up AOL. Buzz buzz squeak- and I was on the world wide web. From there, it was a hop skip and a jump to the video poker game. Where I never got a royal flush.

Virgil, yes, that was his name, only wanted royal flushes. Full houses, straights, pairs, did not excite him. His goal was strictly a royal flush. So set on his goal was he that he would throw away any cards that stood in his way. EVEN when he had something viable in his hand like a pair of queens (two jacks or better is an automatic winner) or three of a kind or was close to a flush. He would throw it all back and keep one ten or an ace, whatever component he may have had.

When X told me that, so long ago, we just shook our heads. It seemed crazy to us that you would risk a sure bet for a slim chance at having it all.

Nothing Is a Sure Bet

So, I’ve played video poker over the years, with that “sure bet” approach, hanging on to that pair of sixes for dear life and hoping for a third, while remembering Virgil and how crazy his approach was.

Or was it?

What safe bets do we hang on to that turn out to be anything but! Of course I could point out my marriage to X, but also so much more.

We cling to bad marriages, bad jobs and bad habits as though they are some sort of life raft protecting us from certain failure.

So the other night, on a plane to Chicago, with some time to kill, I clicked on the video poker app on my tablet. I played for a while, and then thought of Virgil. A thought came to me. What if I played like him?

It was hard at first. My comfort zone was to hang on to those two measly sixes, because even one more could mean a 15 point payout. I would catch myself drifting back to safety again and again. I would even have to keep reminding myself that these points are fake, it isn’t even real money’

The goal is a royal flush, the goal is a royal flush, I repeated. Keep your sight on the goal, anything else is just settling. Still, throwing away three nines because I had a ten and queen of hearts was hard. And, it didn’t pay off.