Right now I’m living in Denali, Alaska, and I’ve been playing a lot of poker. The sun never really goes down, so you need to find post work activities. Now don’t get all finicky and call gamblers anonymous. It’s a free game once a week, and you win vouchers for local activities that most of us can get for free anyway. But here’s the thing: I don’t play to get first. I can never remember the order of hands, so playing to win would be pointless. I only play to make it to the top ten. Then I get a cool little certificate and a slip to go do something or other. But it has given me the opportunity to look at other players. People who play to win. And this realization has taught me years’ worth of knowledge about the human race in two hours a week.
In poker, the blinds go up. This means that every fifteen minutes, the amount it costs to play a hand gets higher. As the cost to play goes up, the hands that people are willing to bet on changes drastically. People who would never have bet on a pair of deuces the first hand will go all in on them twenty minutes in. Why? The odds of beating everyone else hasn’t changed. But somehow that set of twos means more.
Now, just follow me here, doesn’t that apply to romance in our lives? When we’re young, if we think someone won’t work out, we break up. Easy and clean. Maybe we eat some ice cream and cry, but we get over it. But every year, the blinds go up. It becomes more and more important to win. I got lucky, I got a winner for life coupon really early on. But I watch the people around me make bad choices because they’re afraid nothing better will come along. And every year, what they are willing to gamble gets worse and worse. First, people bet a night, then a night in bed, then a year together, then a marriage, because they are afraid they won’t be able to afford the next round.
And the worst part is I don’t have an answer to give. I don’t have a quipy little anecdote about how with each year the chances of finding your soul mate get better. Because the truth is, it’s not about finding one person in the whole world. It’s about finding someone who fits who you are right now and has the potential to grow in the same direction as you. Love is about cross pollination, and we treat it like poker.
So, here’s the words of wisdom I can give. If you’re in a tournament of forty players, you don’t have to get to the first place certificate. That might be for the fish palace, and you might be allergic to the fish palace. The key is to wait until you think you have a hand that can win. Then bet. Bet whatever you want. Go for it. See if you win. In the end, you will find the prize that fits. And it doesn’t matter if it’s what everyone wants. The only one who gets to take the prize home is you. Make sure it’s worth the gamble.
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