For me, the game began on September 10, 1948 when the Dealer first dealt me a hand. It was not a great hand, not a good hand, but at the time I did not know the difference. I looked at my cards in bewilderment. How does this poker game of life work? What are the rules? What are the chances a guy like me can win? Over the years I began to understand that the hand I'd been dealt was quite a poor hand and some hard decisions were necessary.
But I had no courage.
I kept the cards I had been dealt. Other players showed skills I did not seem to possess. The risks were too great. Failure loomed. I feared embarrassment. I feared loosing my seat at the table. I fretted over the larger size of other player's chip stacks. While they improved their hands, some that were even worse than mine at first, I held on to what I knew, what I had. It let me feel comfortable, at least for a while.
Sitting at that card table holding those cards proved dangerous, for the hand dealt to me included much physical trauma resulting in mental damage that was not immediately evident. That damage slowly drained from me any hope of or energy for ever improving my hand. It became too obvious I was bluffing. I faltered, lost the ability to focus on the game, felt hopeless.
On January 20, 2009 I decided to fold.
But something went wrong, or perhaps went right, and I woke up that following day. The option to fold was no longer available. My liquid courage had failed me and left me hurting. Through anguished eyes I took another look at my hand. Now it seemed much worse. Just sitting at the card table was almost impossible. Desperation, not courage, led me to ask for help.
And I received it.
I learned that some people still loved this old player and there might be a reason to stay in the game. So I did. I grew stronger and eventually found some of the courage that had been there all along, near the bottom of my dwindling chip stack.
Finally I understood what was wrong with the hand I'd been dealt and I made that hard decision to do something about it. I discarded. I kept my one Ace: what was left of my brain. I looked up at the Dealer and said with a shaky voice, "Give me four more."
My hand looks a little different now, different cards, different problems, more problems, different opportunities, fewer opportunities, the same risks but they seem even scarier. It's not a good hand; but it's my hand and I'll play it. I'm not sure how this is going to end. I've grow old and weak, and after all these years I am still learning the game. But I won't be timid. I'll play to win. This is my game. My life.
I don't know him well enough to call him my friend but I have finally thanked the Dealer.
I'm more focused. I'm committed. My energy slowly increases, my skill improves in tiny increments, my expectations are guarded but growing. No more thoughts about folding. My efforts will show I want to win.
After all, I hold the only hand I get to play in this lifetime.
And now I can say, “I'm all in.”