You Gotta Know When To Hold ‘Em

At the risk of being branded a heretic, unAmerican, or a millennial, I have to admit, I’m not a huge Country music fan. I do, however, have several Country Music artists and quite a few singles on rotation on my phone. I Love Kenny Rogers wake up rasp, Willie Nelson’s plaintive clarity, Dolly Parton’s sass, Patsy Cline’s sweetness, and though not strictly Country, I do love some Johnny Cash & John Denver.

I think what I like about Country is the same thing I love about Irish folk music – the stories. Kenny’ Rogers’ song The Gambler, is a magnificent piece of cogent advice wrapped in melody. The lyrics were playing in my mind the other day as I was rerunning a conversation I’d had with someone in my mind. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run. Never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough to count it when the dealin’s done. Was it time to run? Perhaps it was just time to just hold my cards close to my chest.

It’s funny. Church people aren’t supposed to know about gambling and poker, and to be sure, I hate gambling because I hate to waste hard-earned money. I’ve been to a casino with friends once in my early twenties and only because I was dragged. I rationalized the $10 cost of the trip was defrayed by the $20 in free tokens we got to play and the meal voucher. I cashed in $10 worth of tokens for quarters immediately upon arrival, then I had them to do laundry with when I got home. I cashed in my voucher for a free meal and spent the most unsatisfactory $10 of my life on games rigged to fail me and pay the house. That being said, however, I think poker is an excellent analogy for life. And card games, in general, are a fantastic way of teaching you all kinds of life skills – chief of which is think before you act.

So, as I walk through life, humming Kenny Rogers’ ode to a man who got valuable advice from a stranger, I’ll remember my own modified version of that advice: Pray first, think second, pray third, then act because “all my mistakes were made in a hurry.”

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