Hard Right


Every day we are faced with choices in our life. The choices we make are akin to a fork in the road of life. Most of the decisions have a clear cut right and wrong choice; a good choice and a bad choice. My life is full of bad choices. I seem to end up in those scrapes where I am faced with a bad choice and a worse choice.

The truth is that every fork in the road leads to another fork in the road. Usually my journey brings me to these forks at an alarming pace. I live my life at full speed with my hair on fire and an extra can of gas strapped to my back. If you go left you take a safer route. The safe route is the boring way to live your life. If you go right you take additional risks and positive risks are called opportunities.

risks ahead

I always seem to turn right and increase the risk and danger of the voyage. When in doubt, keep the skinny pedal pressed to the floor, shift, and wheel the shit out of her. Holding that bitch hard over to the right carries consequences and leads to some pretty tough mucking.

We make it, we always make it. There has to be some pain and sacrifice combined with fear and trepidation to make the victories worth celebrating. You would be surprised what kind of victories lead to the best celebrations. Hell yeah I lead entire teams down that path on the right. Let’s take a walk on the wild side.

I remember a conversation I had with Paul Smith when he asked me for some coaching prior to a big blackjack tournament.  The advice I gave him: “When the choices are slim and none, always choose slim”. No matter how great the risk and how awful the odds, you have to give yourself a chance to win on the final hand. I detailed several scenarios where you take a huge risk because a 2% chance of winning is infinitely better than zero percent. My mathematical geeked-out engineer friends would call it division by zero. Paul was dealt a 17 on the final hand and could not win the tournament because he did not have enough bet to cover his opponents. Paul doubled down on that hard 17 and caught a beautiful trey that won the tournament for him. Paul gave me a piece of that win for the coaching session. Take slim.

I was an engineer with a decent job and making a living but work was a grind.  I was playing poker as often as I could at the time. In those days, the games were few and far between and it took serious effort to stay in action. Playing poker just seemed to give me opportunities to add adventure and risk to my otherwise boring life. As I kept making those right turns, my ability to perform my day job became more and more perilous. At some point, I made one too many right turns and jumped in a car with my friend Ron Darnell and we went to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. That decision meant that I would have no job when we returned from Las Vegas. I am sure I could have gone back to work and groveled for my job. I just no longer wanted to turn left. I started playing poker full time.

The movie Rounders had not come out yet, but it was in development and Matt Damon and some of the cast were in Vegas to play in the WSOP and promote the upcoming movie. Only 350 people played in the main event that year. Things were much different downtown at Binnions in those days. I played limit hold’em at the $10-20, $15-30 and $20-40 levels and those games were huge. There was always a game and I could play to my heart’s content. I loved the week I spent in Las Vegas and I knew somehow I would be back. When I watched the movie Rounders, I just identified a wee bit too much with Mike McDermott. Of course my friends thought I was living the life of Joey Knish. I decided I needed to live a little more and be like Mike and yet it was so easy to see what happens when you become Worm. I was going to take some more right turns in life or was I already predisposed to making some rights? Too many rights?

In June of 2000, I finally veered left at one of the forks in the road. I got a regular job as an engineer and took a break from playing poker. The girl I was dating had pretty much told me that if I was sticking around I was not going to be “GAMBLING” all the time. Rather than get into a no win argument, I decided to just give in and prove myself as a stable sane individual capable of behaving within the acceptable societal range of norms.

I have been working at the same job for 14 years and married to my wife for 13 years. My best friend Bob Stephens says, “I have never seen anybody make such a dramatic change all at once”. That means something coming from Bob who was just too damn wild when he was young. Every day I go to work and manage projects for a living, but rest assured I still make way too many right turns in my project management. I embrace far too much risk. All the risk allows for sensational delivery and huge celebrations but it also leads to much undo stress and complication.

“Just once make the safe play and take the easy way out.”

“I can’t, I am not wired that way.”


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