by Jennifer on October 21, 2008

In the space of an hour last Saturday, two things happen. First, I meet a woman whose last name is Lucky, and then I draw my own name out of a basket full of small slips of paper and win a lovely bracelet as a door prize.

What are the odds?

I’ve gone my whole life without meeting someone named Lucky (even if she married into the name), so I don’t know how to figure the odds of that. But when I draw my own name, it’s in the middle of 30 or 40 other pieces of paper. I’m sitting on a stair step, and the basket is higher than my head. There’s no way for me to see what name I’m drawing.

And yet, improbably, I pick my name, soon after meeting Mrs. Lucky.

That’s lucky.

Later that night, after a nice dinner with friends, I drive up the casino to play poker. It’s a slow night, and off in some way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Which may have been the reason why, on a Saturday night, the place was pretty quiet. Still, I had driven all the way up there and might as well stay, so I take a seat at my favorite limit hold ‘em game.

After about an hour, the skinny, odd guy at the other end of the table asks, “What’s your name?”

I tell him.

“Okay, Jennifer. I dare you to walk out there,” he points to the next room – it’s filled with blackjack tables and slot machines – “right now, and put $500 on one hand of blackjack.” He looks at me over the top of his sunglasses. “One hand.”

I laugh and shake my head. Not in this lifetime, I think.

“No, no, there’s not a game outside this poker room that I would bet a single dollar on,” I answer. The whole table is listening, and I’m aware that I’m clearly labeling myself as Not a Real Gambler.

But a poker player is fooling only one person if he claims that poker isn’t really gambling. It’s a game of chance. Still, it’s a game where a player plays against other people and can claim a measurable advantage for himself, over time, by positioning himself as the House against other players. (And, to be fair, of all the house games, blackjack is the one game where a very good player can even the odds between the house and himself. But still.)

I shuffle two stacks of eight red chips, a habit, and look up at him again.

“Listen, maybe if I knew how to play those games – who knows? – I might have a different opinion. But I do know this. They’re house games.” Why play when the odds aren’t in my favor?

Later on, I couldn’t help wondering, can I ever really win big, if I play like that? Not in poker, but in my life? If I only play games where I know I’m safe, where I won’t win much, but I won’t lose much either, where does that leave me?

I’ve had a couple of days now to think about those questions. I’m absolutely sure of my rules about playing other casino games (not going to happen), but what about the other chances I’m not taking? Would I rather absorb the small losses, a little bit at a time (and end up with nothing to show for it – no book, no published articles), than kiss the dice and pray to roll a lucky seven?

If life is a game, why am I not betting on me?

I become almost paralyzed by fear – equal parts fear of failure or of success. Both are scary. But scary is good, when it’s the right thing (yes?), when what you might win is the thing you wanted all along. That’s what I hear, anyway. I’d kind of like to find out for myself, to know if I have what it takes to back up my bluffs.

I think in some things we make our own luck, though certainly not in all, or even most, parts of life. (And there will always be some things that are never worth risking in a bet. A family, love, the faith that others have in you. Those are the essentials.)

But as for the rest of it, for those dreams that would put us over the moon if they came true, it takes work to be ready when everything comes together and luck somehow finds the right address. It’s time to do that work. To draw my own name, again.

So, deal me in.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

RiverPoet October 21, 2008 at 5:03 am

Fear is a fickle mistress. Sometimes she prods us on and sometimes she just paralyzes us with her taser. I hope that you are being prodded on to greatness.

Peace – D

RiverPoets last blog post..My Blog-iversary!

Mrs. Chili October 21, 2008 at 5:23 am

“If life is a game, why am I not betting on me?”

Really? You need the answer to this question? How about the fact that you weren’t raised to believe in you? How about the fact that you DID have to make your own luck long before you should have had to? How about the fact that you didn’t have a proper foundation of love and support, or someone to teach you that you’re WORTH betting on? How about that?

I love that you ended this with “deal me in,” but don’t think that I don’t know the work you had to do to get to this place.



Mrs. Chilis last blog post..Monday Meme

Autumn October 21, 2008 at 5:38 am

Thank you for this post. That’s all I can really say.

Autumns last blog post..Ramble, Ramble, Ramble….

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 October 21, 2008 at 5:45 am

Roll them bones 😉

Go for it–better to have tried and failed than to sit and wonder ‘what if’ 😉

Lisa@verybusymomwith4s last blog post..It was a very good weekend (minor correction)

anymommy October 21, 2008 at 6:43 am

I’m betting on you – it’s about as close to a sure thing as you get.

anymommys last blog post..Say What You Need To Say

Daryl October 21, 2008 at 10:08 am

Werent you the one who said not making a choice is making a choice (or words to that effect)?

Personally I think we roll the dice every day we wake up and get out of bed .. and for someone who is a poor loser, I find it very hard to take chances where I dont know I will win…


Lisa Milton October 21, 2008 at 10:10 am

Deal me in.

I love it. Thank you. 🙂

Louise October 21, 2008 at 11:43 am

I think you have to deal yourself in, but you can do that.

I liked Ron’s comment above. Diversions. We all use them. But they are not life. And although like Mrs. Chili says, you were not brought up to believe in yourself or a myriad of others things, I believe all of us have doubts and fears, both about failure and success. That is a risk we have to take. From my perspective, if we put ourselves into it, failure is rare. It happens, but it’s rare. And success, though scary to think about, it wonderful once you’re there. (Except be careful to not let people assume your success means you can turn your life over to their control because you are so wonderful that you must to this or that or the next thing.)

I agree that we make our own luck. No not with every little detail, but when bad luck comes our way, we can make it something better. (I’m trying to figure that out at the moment on one little item.)

Deal yourself in. You can think about it on the 4-mile loop.

Louises last blog post..My Mountain — My World

fancy feet October 21, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I really loved this post.

fancy feets last blog post..Sometimes a tree just falls

JCK October 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm

You are IN! 🙂

Yes, you put yourself out there and the luck finds you.

JCKs last blog post..Wanting the best for your child is all consuming and never ending

Em October 21, 2008 at 3:45 pm

Maybe it’s because you have a healthy respect for risk vs. gain – if he had said “bet $50” instead of $500 – would you have taken the chance to step out of your comfort zone?

There’s nothing wrong with hedging your bets.

Just a thought…


Ems last blog post..Um, thanks, but no thanks, Heidi.

Em October 21, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Forgot to add one of my favorite quotes – from a fortune cookie I opened right about the time I started my career over 15 years ago…

“The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

I figure, “luck” is just someone else’s reason for why you have it so much better than they do.

Ems last blog post..Um, thanks, but no thanks, Heidi.

flutter October 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm

if I were a betting woman, I would bet on you

Momisodes October 21, 2008 at 9:50 pm

I’m not one to bet, but I would certainly place my bets on you.

Such a poignant post.

Momisodess last blog post..Slim Pickens

Tootsie Farklepants October 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

But seriously, five hundred dollars is a lot of bones. I’d bet on you though.

Tootsie Farklepantss last blog post..Opposites Attract Just Like Paula Abdul Said

cce October 22, 2008 at 6:54 am

Let ’em roll, honey. And please, tell us this works out for you…I need a happy story right about now.

Gwen October 22, 2008 at 9:13 am

What Em said. Both times.

the mama bird diaries October 22, 2008 at 11:13 am

Perhaps we should look for guidance from my high school yearbook quote… “Risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing… Only a person who takes risks is free.”

Easier when you’re 18 but still very possible.

the mama bird diariess last blog have election anxiety and i have the cure.

Bruce October 22, 2008 at 11:30 am

Society tends to minimize the individual. We aren’t taught to gamble with our lives. We are taught to be conservative, yet awe at the people that take the risks and win big. Age and wisdom have taught me to gamble, but not with money or power, but with my own convictions and test myself every day (or at least try to).

Bruces last blog post..Stapler

ByJane October 22, 2008 at 12:32 pm

I’d love to see this as the beginning of a journal/blog detailing your success and failure at the risktaking you’re talking about.

ByJanes last blog post..Where oh where has my allergy medicine gone?

Linda October 22, 2008 at 8:32 pm

I get where you’re coming from. Taking chances and risking to follow your dreams is scary stuff and I think it is about failing and getting back up more than luck. Look at the great hitters in baseball – Barry Bonds leads with 762 career home runs but he has had 1539 strike-outs. To be great in sales you hear something like 10 no’s before a yes. It’s believing in yourself no matter what the odds. You ARE a winner – you already have defied the odds. Now all you have to do is claim what is yours.

Lindas last blog post..A little obsessed…maybe?

texasholly @ June Cleaver Nirvana October 24, 2008 at 11:11 am

Love this. I am a firm believer in making luck. Wish my name was lucky.

texasholly @ June Cleaver Nirvanas last blog post..It is not me, it is Heidi–LINK HERE NOW!

Coco October 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

This is a pretty amazing piece of writing, J.

It’s hard to take that leap of faith, isn’t it? If I never put myself out there, I never fail…but I also never really know what I can do.

Intriguing thoughts for my weekend.

Cocos last blog post..Down On the Farm In Sin City

Grandy October 27, 2008 at 12:10 am

I’m betting on you, beautiful!!

Hey…I may be having a brain dead moment, but I have an award over at my site for you.

I can’t remember if I came to tell you yet, but this post reminded me why you deserve it. 🙂 It’s from 10/24/08. 😉

Grandys last blog post..A Birthday Wish

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