The Game of Love

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“Do you have any trips planned?” he asked after describing his upcoming adventure. It was an excellent question, but I didn’t want to discuss the plans I can’t afford to put into action, so I pretended they didn’t exist and told him about my last big vacation instead. It was only after I finished writing my last blog post and poked fun at men’s inability to make conversation with me that I looked back and realized that I might have a similar problem. When a different friend offered some unsolicited advice about why I can’t get/keep a man, the issue at hand started to become clear. I defended myself against his opinion that I have some pent-up rage and/or sadness which I need to get out by saying that he has a very limited view of who I am. In the end, I realized that might be true for virtually every person I know.

“Rachel” as seen in Frederique Crestin-Billet’s book Collectible Playing Cards

Imagine that each of us is represented by a card in the standard deck and I am the Queen of Diamonds. While playing my life like a game of No Limit Hold’em, I will only be part of a premium starting hand around 2% of the time. Looking at it this way, I can easily understand why most of the people I meet don’t hold the potential to improve my game. Once I consider the fact that each of you is represented by a particular card, it makes some sense why we end up in similar situations over and over and have limited views of each other’s lives.

The friend I accused of misjudging me might be best represented by a three of clubs. I nearly always see him when I’m feeling down and wishing for someone to talk to. Unfortunately, he’s the type to get angry if you try to discuss anything negative because he believes it’s best to stay focused on the positive and let the rest go. Loving a hand of life with him as my partner is just as improbable as being dealt a win while holding Queen-Three off suit at the table.

The friend who asked about my vacation plans made me want to appear strong, as if a King of Diamonds was at my side. I wanted to tell him that I had hoped and dreamt of returning every year since I last visited the World Series of Poker in 2015. Not knowing how to make it possible, I kept that dream to myself. If he truly was a King of Diamonds and we were meant to win many hands together, then he would be there when the cards were dealt and could see it play out. Perhaps we would find ourselves joined by a Jack and Ten of diamonds on the flop… and perhaps then I would have felt brave enough to hypothesize about future wins rather than discuss past triumphs… but how wise is it to wait until you flop an open ended straight flush draw before facing your fears?

Most of the time, I believe I try to behave as if one of my fellow Queens is at my side… and speak optimistically about the ways I’ve battled superior hands. I talk about what I’m doing and dreaming about now (my art and entrepreneurial endeavors), highlighting the wins and ignoring the losses. I try to appear like someone who is capable and content to face whatever battles may come… but I have often failed to offer the information needed to know why. Every time I sell a candle, painting, or vintage find; Every time a stranger who asks my story leaves me a generous tip; Every time I spend my free time writing, painting, or otherwise working on my career, I am inching closer to my dream.

I want to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event despite the fact my odds of doing so are akin to those for completing a Royal Flush. It would require weeks of (unpaid) time off work in order to attend, months of practice and preparation, and (most importantly) a large bankroll. I believe these to be experiences that I am destined to have so that I can finish the novel I began writing in 2013. That is the part of my dream that’s fairly easy to explain. Why I need to play poker and work as a writer, artist, server, and bartender to earn my way there is much harder to put into words. I know that there are “easier” ways to earn a living, just as I know that Ace-Two is unlikely to be the winning hand when the board shows King, two, seven, Jack, four… but I also know I’ve won pots by trusting my gut and not folding that pair of two’s. So, while I could berate myself for not being willing to go all-in on every conversation, perhaps the truth is that my gut is in control of what I say or don’t say about my dreams whether I like it or not.

Great poker players can win with any two cards because they’re playing the player, not the cards. I suppose I’ve been playing the game of love that way without realizing it. I’ve never limited my desires for romance to men with Ace or King status. I’ve played as many hands as my heart could afford to invest in and always been willing to go all-in whenever my gut said it was time. I can analyze the past forever, wondering why I played with or against the odds, or I can just trust my gut on the fact that each hand has played out exactly how it was meant to… and my jackpot will come at the opportune moment.

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