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Never Get Even for the Night - by the Nightshade Fairy

This is the second article where we are analyzing advice from Mike Caro, the "Mad Genius of Poker." Last time we looked at Bad Luck and how we can't count on Bad Luck becoming good luck. Instead we deal with (sometimes perpetual) Bad Luck by always making the best decisions over and over, without fail. Today let’s talk about how we trip ourselves up by pursuing one of the most meaningless goals for the poker table and the career gambling game, and subvert making the best decisions.

Ever find at work that you slaved away getting a report just right, while your colleague was chatting up the boss and turned in a half-done, mediocre report? And the boss crowed praises about your colleague while you sat and seethed in a meeting?

Or maybe this. You vowed not to do the politics at the office. Instead you kept your head down and ground out the work better and faster than anyone else in your department. At the annual holiday party, you even won the Employee of the Year Award (always a kiss of political death). Then wham, your boss blindsides you by criticizing your attendance, how you park the car in the parking lot, to how you're cluttering the boss’s desk with your finished work. Your co-workers have abandoned you, leaving the lingering echo of their snickers.

What went wrong? You were going after the wrong goals. Which brings us to Caro’s next advice on poker, gambling, and life.

Advice # 2 – If you're a winner, you should never try to get even "for the night." At the poker table, this mistake is to view each gambling session as a game to be won or lost. When you try to get even for the night, you set the goal of winning back the money you've lost so far that night, so you won't leave the table until you have the same size bankroll as when you sat down.

Don't do this.

Consider scenario A. You win $20,000 the first night, next night you lose $4,000, and the third night you lose $1,000. For scenario B, you win $8,000 the first night, next night you win $1,996, and the third night you win $4. In scenario A, you won $15,000 overall, but accomplished this with one win and two loses. In scenario B, you won $10,000 overall, but did this with three wins.

Which scenario would you choose?

Before we talk about your answer to this question and Caro’s take on the issue, let’s look at a real business situation that shows the concept of Never Get Even for the Night. At a now long-defunct dotcom company, I was the project manager for software product development. One of my mandates was to "implement process" for the development team. (Note to the Reader: "Implement process" means to write down step-by-step instructions - called "procedures" - on how to do a specific task, say, wash your car. You then completely ignore the procedures because it will stifle the creative child within, and you wash the car by first applying the wax, THEN wetting down the car, and completely forgetting to use detergent and scrub brush to remove the bug squish from the windshield.)

Knowing the "implementing process" wasn't going to happen (I'd worked at other dotcom companies), I proceeded to watch the geeks, took notes on how they did things, and translated my notes into spiffy and official-looking corporate procedure manuals. Oh, the howling and chest beating that went on about how the procedures (which no one read, let alone used) were slowing down getting things done. Abandon the procedure manuals! Stop talking to the geeks and wasting their time with trivia! Hang the cretin project manager! I gracefully conceded, and the geeks were left to do whatever they damn well pleased. The company never did release a product before it went under.

So what about these procedure manuals? Asking my boss if he or the company would ever want those things, he snarled and said to get rid of them. So. A few years later, those manuals were the inspiration for a product line for my own company. There was gold to mine from the cast-offs.

How could I have tried to "get even for the night" with those procedure manuals? Winning procedure skirmishes with geeks puffed up on the dotcom feeding frenzy would have resulted in resentful geeks, which had the upper hand during dotcom times. I would have been fired. Could I have won a skirmish by quizzing the geeks and showing the boss that the geeks hadn't even read the manuals? Sure. The geeks would have complained, and out the door I would go. But the long-term profit of first creating those procedure documents, then years later using them as the inspiration for my own company’s products, is sweeter than winning any skirmishes with the dotcom geeks.

Back to scenario A or B. Which one do you like? Scenario B? Is always being a winner at every meeting and every poker session your style? If so, you're not alone.

According to Caro, many gamblers at the poker table and people generally in real life feel better about scenario B. It may be human nature to always be a winner for the night, but it can be unprofitable at the poker table. If you agree with both Caro and I that $25,000 is better than $20,000, then it should be clear that it does not matter where the profits come from.

Always winning the skirmishes at work is not profitable. Co-workers will feel threatened by the person who soars above them all - they'll want to shoot that bird out of the sky. Having a long-term goal will help you avoid the mistake of trying to "get even for the night" in a work skirmish that is unimportant in achieving your (profitable) long-term goal.

Next time we will talk about "going on tilt" at the poker table and in the business place and see how it negatively affects your game.

Mike Caro’s website and the inspiration for this article is at http://www.poker1.com/.

· The Poker Game that is Our Career
· About Bad Luck
· Never Get Even for the Night
· Don't Go On Tilt
· Hubris, Anyone?
· The Game Changes as You Play
· Vultures Rock!
· Stop Whining


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