I’m back to playing poker. Don’t worry. It’s not an addiction thing. (I’m winning right now anyway, if you’re concerned.) The point is, as I have been playing, I’ve been reminded of one of the most important things about the game. Maybe the most important skill for me is recognizing when the hand is over.
It’s less obvious than you might think. Like maybe you’re in a low stakes game of No Limit Holdem. And you’re looking down at a pair of aces. It’s literally the best hand you can get. If you could get all your money in against one other person right now, you should want to do that. But it’s not always your choice. You put a good sized bet in and get a couple callers. All good. The flop comes suited and including the ace. So you have three of a kind. This is not a great flop for you because its suited, but chances are you’re still ok. The other two both check before you. This hand is not over yet. You put in another strong bet. One caller left. The next card is another from the same suit. So that’s four to the flush and you have three Aces but no part of the flush. It’s still not over. But then your caller bets out big.
And that’s when the hand is over.
But, you say, there is another card to come. And you’re mad. The guy probably should have folded multiple times. You should have won the hand already. And it’s true, a lot of things could still happen. You could get another ace, or the board could pair. But you will win this hand less than a quarter of the time from here. And calling bets like this is how you lose money quickly. Your only job right now is to recognize that even though the hand is still happening, it’s over. Let it go.
The reason I thought about this today actually has nothing to do with playing cards though. Yesterday was the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones and I am feeling intense pressure to watch this series until the end. Actually, I am talking about the two weeks before this one, since I did not even watch yesterday. Just like poker, there are 3 more episodes coming, but the “Game” is over. And it has been for a while. The show’s producers exhausted George R. R. Martin’s original material after season six. GOT is not even the best show on HBO. Not even on Sunday nights — Shout out to Barry and VEEP…
But like a pair of aces, it’s hard to let a successful show go.
After all, Martin had promised the producers ten years ago he would finish the story. By all reasonable measures, it should have been done in time. But it wasn’t. And ahead of Season Six, they were facing four to a flush and a big bet against them.
But instead of accepting defeat (or in their case, six good seasons), they called the bet. Got some notes from Martin on how he would have ended it and wrote it themselves. By Season Eight, all of the rich texture of world building that Martin had conjured below the surface is completely gone, leaving only a flimsiest superficial primetime network tv drama slosh to occupy us.
The difference between poker and a tv show that’s gone two seasons too long is in poker the player bears the loss alone. With GOT, if they can convince people like me that I have to watch this, they can still win. Millions of viewers will bail them out. That is what’s happening, since this is the most people I have heard talking about GOT since it started. I mean, 60 Minutes?
Well, this Game is over for me. I quit.
By the way, I recognize that this runs counter to the “Winners never quit ethos,” but in some case, the quitters are the winners.