Home / Life / Playing the Hand You’re Dealt

Playing the Hand You’re Dealt


The other night I was having trouble sleeping and found myself flipping through channels on the television. I stopped on ESPN where they were showing a re-run of some poker tournament. As I watched, I realized a couple of important things about poker that really amazed me.

(Before I go any farther, let me just tell you that I am not a great poker player. I know the basics of which hands are good because I played Yahtzee as a kid but beyond that, I’m clueless.)

What amazed me as I watched the tournament was how often the person with the best hand didn’t end up winning the round. In fact, there were a couple of times that the person with almost the worst hand ended up collecting the money in the pool. I find that fascinating. Having great cards increases the chances of someone winning the hand but really doesn’t guarantee them a victory. Having a less than desirable hand doesn’t mean you automatically lose. There are other factors that go into winning.

You have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Unfortunately, you don’t get to trade cards with anyone else or pay extra to upgrade your hand. The cards you get are the cards you play. Each of us is dealt a hand when we come into the world. Some will have every advantage: happy family life, good genetics, a safe home, etc. They have been dealt a great hand. Others may be born into poverty, a broken family, child abuse, etc. They have been dealt a little tougher hand. poker nervous

The important point to remember is that you cannot change the hand you’re dealt. You don’t decide what circumstances you are born into and it does no good to complain about them or expect that they will determine your success. Many people think that being born into money or prestige will guarantee their happiness. Nothing could be farther form the truth. Others will use their hard circumstances as a crutch for why they don’t succeed. They take a look at the hand they were dealt and fold immediately.

The hand you were dealt cannot be changed, but the way you play it can.

Winning has less to do with your hand, and more to do with how you play it.

Like I said earlier, it is not the person with the best hand that always wins. I suppose that is one of the exciting aspects of poker. A great poker player can “defy” the hand he is dealt and, if he acts confidently, can get the other players to fold.

Some of the most successful people I have ever met were people who had been dealt some bad cards in their lifetime. Real bad cards. Cards that would have made me probably fold and give up. But they were able to take those cards and use them to put together a victory. They didn’t give up when others thought their hand was unwinable. They found ways to use those cards for their benefit and growth. They learned from them and became proud of their hand. They owned it and ended up as winners.

“We are all dealt a hand and we have to decide how to play it.” – Voltaire
poker bad hand

I know that you have trials and hardships. I know that you’ve been dealt some tough cards from time to time. Since you can’t change those cards, how are you going to play them? Are you going to fold or proceed in a timid manner? Are you going to accept them and still move forward towards your goals? Will you blame your cards for your misfortune for most of your life?

It is up to you.

Every hand, no matter how bad, has the potential to be a winning hand.


Like games? Find out about playing chess with the devil

Want to get my latest e-Book, “Happiness Is a Habit”?   Sign up HERE!


  1. WOW Kris!!! I must say this is an excellent post. I seldom read blogs while working but this caught my eye and I had to read further. You couldn’t be MORE correct on what you stated. I am a firm believer in making life what you want it to be. I was not born into money or have parents who are still together and everything in between BUT I feel like I played the game very well regardless of the cards that were dealt to me. I alway say you can either choose to make things happen regardless of circumstance or choose to play the pity party and use your circumstance as a crutch to justify why you “haven’t made it”. Very great article and I thank you for it. I hope you have an amazing day Kris!!!

    – Jason (1UnitedCircle.com)

    Stay Happy • Stay Positive • Stay Grateful

  2. “They didn’t give up when others thought their hand was unwinable. They found ways to use those cards for their benefit and growth. They learned from them and became proud of their hand. They owned it and ended up as winners.”

    Love it. Great post, and very true. Your writing is fantastic.

  3. Very good and engouraging

  4. I wanna meet you in real life !

  5. Sounds good and makes sense. Thanks Kris

  6. Fold and wait for a better hand imo.

  7. Kris, Once again you’ve given us a wonderful analogy. Poker and Life. Love it! Barbara

  8. What a self-righteous article. Poor analogy too. You may choose to play or not with poker. Not so with life. You are utterly stuck and may not simply wait for a better hand. Celebrating those who overcome adversity should not be used as an excuse to blame those who were unable to do so. Those who fail do not do so only because they choose too. Stop with blaming the victim.

    • Kevin,
      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I think you may have misread the intention or meaning of the article. The point is that we don’t get to wait for another hand so we have to look at what we’ve been given and find a way to make it work. Some will choose to play the hand the best they can, others will choose to complain about their hand over and over until they lose. Everyone overcomes adversity who tries to overcome adversity. Maybe not in the way they are expecting, but the fact that they don’t give up, in my opinion, is what constitutes overcoming adversity.
      As a side note, you may enjoy the post 22 Things Happy People Do Differently. Might be some pointers in there.

      • I agree with the main point of this article – that we shouldn’t use the “bad hands” we were dealt in life to justify not fighting for a better result.

        However, I do think this attitude that “you can overcome whatever disadvantage you have by thinking or working differently” has a downside, which Kevin alluded to. If we believe people can overcome whatever disadvantage all the time, we tend to judge people who fail as inadequate and somehow deserved his failure. I know this is not directly related to your main point, but it’s important enough for everyone to keep in mind “deal with whatever hand you’re dealt” does not mean “if you see someone losing a bad hand then it must be his fault, lazy, inadequate, etc…”

  9. This is a great and inspiring perspective. I agree with all of it. Thanks!

Leave a Reply