Saturday, February 12, 2011

Good Luck, Bad Luck, Who Knows?

I read a parable the other day about the nature of luck. It goes like this: One day a man’s favorite horse runs away. His friends say he is unlucky, but the man says,
“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
A few days later, the horse returns with a herd of beautiful, wild stallions. His friends all tell him that he is very lucky. He simply says,
“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
The following week, while his son is trying to ride one of the new horses, it breaks the boy’s leg, crippling him. The man’s friends all offer consolation, saying they are sorry for his bad luck. The man replies,
“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”
A month later, his country declares war and, because of his injury, the man’s son is exempted from military service. Shortly after this, the unit his son would have been a part of was ambushed, and all the men killed.
“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?”

There is a common debate in poker about how much of the game is luck and how much is skill. Everyday people at poker tables around the world reiterate the same cliché: “I would rather be lucky than good.” Personally, I would rather have it the other way around. Luck only exists in the short term, skill lasts much longer. Every time I take a bad beat, I try to remember all the bad beats that I have given out over the years. My own preferred saying about luck is: “It all comes out in the wash.” Unlucky one day, lucky the next, ultimately, skill determines long term success.

At the top of the ledger where I record my poker results, I have taped a small saying from a fortune cookie. It reads: “Behind bad luck comes good luck.” It is a very handy saying to ponder during the rough stretches all gamblers encounter. It helps cheer me up as I review the long list of numbers, filled with lucky ups and downs. Also, just as importantly, it helps to balance my mood after a big win and evens out the emotional highs and lows that can be absolutely torturous.

Who is to say whether winning at gambling is actually lucky at all?

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