Don’t Be Defeated By a Bad Hand

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Sometimes you do everything right and still lose. In poker it’s known as a “bad beat.” 

Jane’s bad beat started with a job interview at a vitamin company in Phoenix. She had been selected from more than fifty people based on her résumé and a phone interview. They flew her to Phoenix to meet the key company executives. She spent an entire day with the team and thought she aced the interview. She clicked with everybody. As an added bonus, it turned out that she knew one of the executives from her previous job who was a big fan.

When the interview concluded, HR told her they were going to have three candidates back.  Jane was sure that she would be one of the three. But she got an email a few days later saying that she wasn’t one of the finalists. She was devastated, and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. 

You can play your hand perfectly at the poker table and still lose.

Sometimes, someone else is just luckier; even if they’re doing everything wrong. All you can do is fight through your discouragement and move on to the next hand. 

Failure to shake off a “bad beat” (or even a series of them) can lead to a phenomenon called “going on tilt.” In poker, this means letting your game go off-track because you’re so upset or angry over what happened that you’re just not playing your game right and sticking to your strategy. As in life, when your emotions take control, your game is in jeopardy. 

We frequently go on tilt in our everyday lives as well, firing off a nasty response to a colleague’s poorly phrased email or yelling at a reckless Uber driver and letting it ruin the day.

About six months later, Jane learned that the company’s new hire was brought over from Europe. It was somebody that they had promised would be brought to the U.S., and this was the only job that they could find for him. In other words, no matter how well-qualified she was, she was never going to get the job due to office politics. She did everything right, but for reasons she couldn’t control, the job was never going to be hers. 

Jane could have gone on tilt, complaining to the executive recruiter that she felt misled and cutting off contact, or complaining to the president of that company. Instead, she sent an e-mail to the president saying she hoped things were going well. It was a gracious note without a hint of bitterness, and when the president heard of a great opportunity at another company, he recommended Rachel to them. She didn’t “go on tilt,” and in the end she wound up winning.

Everyone has a bad beat story.

Most poker players have many of these. In fact they are more likely to recall the details of a bad beat then a win. But they understand that if you have a bad beat, the worst thing is to go on tilt, losing focus or taking foolish chances in a desperate effort to get even. The key is to get past it and go on to the next hand. Whatever you do, don’t let it influence your next round of play. 

A bad beat isn’t the only thing that can mess with your head.  Some people use trash talk to throw you off your game, and I’ll talk about how to handle that in my next post.

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