Life Explained…Through Baseball and Poker

Life

I am about to explain life to you, so I suggest you get comfortable and prepare to have your mind blown. I would also suggest smoking a bowl, but that’s up to you. Life is a tricky little thing and seemingly very complex. However, it’s not at all complex when you break it down, and that’s exactly what I am about to do. This essay will explain life through the game of baseball and poker!

Before we start, an important detail needs to be cleared up: there is no god. If you believe in a god, then there is a book that explains everything for you. It’s fiction, but a good read. We are nothing more than a bunch of random atoms that derived from the Big Bang. With that said, mathematics is the universal language. Everything in the universe is proven and explained through mathematical equations. In order to explain life in this universe, let’s turn to math…more specifically, statistics. And to explain statistics, let’s turn to baseball and poker.

Baseball and Life: A Numbers Game

Major League Baseball is a game of statistics…more so than any other major sport (maybe with the exception of the NBA, which is about the same). With 162 games a season, an individual player has plenty of data to work with in order to close in on the statistical (i.e. accurate) average of his abilities. For example, the Kansas City Royals had one of the best batting averages in the beginning of the year. However, as the season progressed and more data was entered, they leveled off to being complete shit…as expected. With the postseason consisting of a 7-game series, there is no doubt who the best team is at the end of October. Essentially, baseball is a game of statistics, making the records and the wins more accurate than, say, football.

So how does this equate to life? Here are some examples of players on the leader board to help:

Alex Rodriguez. He’s one of the best active players at the moment and will no doubt go down in history as one of the elite. As of this season, Rodriguez is 5th (all-time) in homeruns. There’s plenty more seasons to climb up to 4th, 3rd, or beyond. Rodriguez is a fierce hitter that many pitchers rather not face. Statistically, he is more likely to hit a homerun than most players. Logic would dictate that striking him out wouldn’t be likely. Wrong! Alex Rodriguez is also SIXTH (all-time) in strikeouts. We’ll get into the significance of this stat shortly, but first let’s move to another Hall of Famer.

Nolan Ryan. Personally, my favorite baseball player. I idolized this guy as a child…and idolize him as an adult, but for completely different reasons. His stats are amazing and tell a similar story like that of A-Rod’s numbers. In fact, Ryan’s stats may be more revealing of the point I will eventually make. Nolan Ryan currently holds the record for Most Strikeouts (all-time). He has 839 more strikeouts than the second place holder, Randy Johnson! Even A-Rod would have feared the wrath of Nolan Ryan. It was hard to hit off of Ryan, but if he didn’t strike you out, he probably walked your ass. That’s because he’s FIRST (all-time) in Bases on Balls…almost 1,000 more than second place. He’s also 4th in Earned Runs.

You probably already see where I’m going with this. In the baseball game of life, you’re going to strikeout more than you’ll hit a homerun. Even the most successful people—whether in business, relationships, etc—had to strikeout many times before hitting that homerun. In fact, they probably had more failures than successes, but they have more successes than you because they allowed themselves the opportunity to fail. The less you try—the less attempts you put towards ANYTHING—will statistically set you up for failure. You want to hit a homerun (great job/great relationship/whatever)? Well then, you have to strikeout a lot (failed jobs/failed relationships/etc).

Now you see how life is based on statistics. Remember, a batting average of around .250 isn’t bad. When you think about it that means you’re going to succeed only once out of every four attempts. Some of you go-getters will succeed once out of every three attempts, but very few (if any) will do much better than that. This average only accounts for hits (small successes). Homeruns (perfect job/perfect mate) happen less often.

Poker and Life: Success Easier For Others…Obtainable To Everyone

This section will be longer because every aspect of poker is analogous to life. More specifically, the game of no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em. It will take too long to get into the basic rules and strategies of the game, so hopefully you are familiar with them. If not, work the Google machine.

As an avid poker player, I have always seen the similarities of poker and life, so I am excited to finally share my revelations. Unlike other forms of poker (Omaha, limit poker, etc.), Texas Hold ‘Em is a combination of statistics, psychology and luck. Life doesn’t always follow a statistical pattern; it can often times be unpredictable just like poker. However, the statistical game will always override the elements of psychology and luck. Some of the most successful poker pros are mathematical geniuses and former professional chess players. Conversely, amateurs have been known to win World Series of Poker events.

The analogies are simple. Your starting hand in poker is equivalent to your position in life when you are born: rich/poor, black/white, disable/great genes, etc. The flop, turn and river represent the beginning, middle and end (respectively) of a certain stage in life. We all go through many stages in life, so losing one hand is to be expected. The question is, can you win enough hands in life to win the whole tournament? For some, this comes easier than most, but even a bad hand can be a winning hand.

POCKET ACES

The Holy Grail of poker hands. This is the best possible starting hand in poker. In life, this is being born to a wealthy family with great genes and all that comes with it. Statistically, you are likely to win. You can coast through the flop, turn and river and probably win. In other words, you can coast through life and still come out a winner with little to no work done on your part. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, if you play your pocket aces poorly, you can lose everything. Due to the strength of your hand, failure will often be the result of bad luck. For example there could a straight or flush on the board. This is the equivalent to a stock market crash, a terrible disease/accident, or whatever. It is not uncommon in poker (and therefore life) for someone with pocket aces to get cocky and have that cockiness exploited by someone with a weaker hand yet far more skill. Pocket Aces of the world will almost always succeed, but it’s never a guarantee. If you treat that hand like it’s a given, bad things may happen.

7/2 OFF-SUIT

The Redheaded Stepchild of poker. 7/2 off-suit (7/2o) is the equivalent of a crack baby in life. Statistically, you don’t stand a chance. This starting hand very rarely improves through the flop, turn or river. Meaning, very few crack babies go on to do well in life. This doesn’t mean you are completely doomed. Just like Mr. Pocket Aces can lose everything, the 7/2o can win the pot if he or she plays their cards right. Sure, the 7/2o has to be exponentially smarter and more skilled in order to succeed, but with a complex strategy, you can take down the pot. Also like Mr. Pocket Aces seeing a straight on the board (i.e. bad luck), Mr. 7/2o can come across good luck and see his shitty hand magically turn into a full house. This would be like winning the lottery, or finding a suitcase full of money, or something. If 7/2o does get lucky and takes down a huge pot, they have two choices: 1) wise up and keep that money or 2) get greedy with that luck and lose it all in the next hand. Happens all the time in poker, happens all the time in life. As a 7/2o you have work much MUCH harder than everyone else to witness an ounce of success, but enough intelligence can make it happen.

MIDDLE PAIR

The Mediocre hand, i.e. the rest of us. These hands win about 50% of the time. There’s no coasting through the flop, turn and river (i.e. life) with this hand. On the other hand, you’re not setup for failure either. You are just as likely to lose with this hand as you are to win. If you play smart, you will succeed. If you play recklessly, you will lose. And if you just half-ass your way through life with this hand, you essentially have a 50/50 shot of succeeding/failing. Just like Pocket Aces and 7/2o, luck could go for or against you. You’ll have to work harder than Pocket Aces to win, but not nearly as hard as 7/2o. Essentially, if you don’t do anything, you will break even in life. Just a tiny slip in the right or wrong direction can be significant with middle pair. By far, Middle Pair is the most complex hand to possess in life since it could go either way. It’s up to the skill of the individual player to determine where this hands goes.

Below is loose guide of the hand correlation with socioeconomic group:

  • High pair = wealthy
  • A/K, A/Q, A/J, = upper middleclass
  • 10/10, 9/9, 8/8 = middle class
  • 6/6, 5/5, 4/4 = lower middleclass/working class
  • Everything else = lower class

THE HANDS AFTER THE FLOP

The wonderful thing about poker is that it is a game of statistics and skill mixed with a little bit of luck…just like life. Just like poker, you can bluff your way through life for only so long before everyone catches on and busts you. My roommate (soon to be former roommate) is a good example of that. He was a leech for his entire 20s and got away with it. However, after so many years of being a bum, people wised up to his laziness and slowly started to drop out of his life. Now, there’s no one he can bluff that won’t call him out on it.

Before the flop (when we are born), we are NOT created equal in terms of our likelihood to succeed. Some have an extreme advantage or disadvantage, but it’s worth noting that we all chip-in the same amount to see the flop. Once we get further into life (the flop/turn/river), our individual skills (or lack thereof) will override any of this advantages or disadvantages. The more hands you win (the more stages you succeed in), the more chips you acquire, therefore making subsequent hands easier to win (the more confidence, knowledge, wealth, etc).

Okay, okay. Let’s discuss religion briefly. The poker equivalent to religion is the first-time player that gets way too far into the tournament. This person is under the impression they are skilled and know what they are doing, but in reality they got there blindly. Once the shit hits the fan, they’re helpless to regain control of their chips and inevitably fail. For example, if a religious person gets in a really bad rut, they’ll turn to prayer and God rather than fix the problem themselves. Soon enough their chip count in life will diminish and there’s nothing they can do about it since they don’t have the skills and knowledge needed to regain control. Extreme knowledge of the game will get you further than a gut feeling on each hand, and will arm you when forced to make a difficult decision.

Summary

In summary, life is nothing more than a game of statistics. The more activity you log in, the more likely you are to succeed. Some groups may have an unfair advantage over others, but at the individual level, you can lose it all by playing recklessly. The reverse is true for those with a major disadvantage. For the rest of, play the numbers, play smart and profit. You won’t go broke by losing one hand, and if you are a smart player, you’ll end successfully if you play enough hands.

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