The only sound more satisfying than the smack of a card down onto a wooden table is the shuffle of bills as they are passed from one person to another, ideally when they are being passed to you.
However, this only applies to those who are particularly gifted at gambling, which is unfortunate for me, as I came to discover that these sounds were more sad than satisfying when my attempts at playing cards led to nothing but empty pockets.
At the time, I was seated at a high-profile gambling game at my friend’s house.
But our game of choice was not the classic game of poker; it was Monopoly Deal. We were far too frugal to use real money, but what we used was far more valuable: Monopoly money, worthless in the marketplace, but precious in terms of bragging rights.
The first round, I got lucky, having picked up a Deal Breaker card, the best in the deck. In fear of giving up this asset, I immediately placed down a filler card — something that soon turned out to be a terrible mistake.
My friend went next and wasted no time. She smacked down the only other Breaker in the deck, stole my cards and quickly won the game, to my absolute devastation.
On the train ride home, I was still fuming from my loss, so I got to thinking.
To this day, I still cannot determine what scenario I would’ve deemed “worthy” enough at the time to use the Breaker. I suppose I could’ve waited until the purchase of my first house, in which I could’ve then embedded the card into my walls. Perhaps the only situation with enough gravity to use the card would have been in lieu of an ID. Or maybe, if anything, I could’ve used it in place of the birth certificate for my first-born child. I really couldn’t tell you.
Just to humor the thought, though, let’s say that there really was a so-called “correct” moment for me to have placed down the card. This unfortunately leads to a different problem: the inability to say with certainty that any moment is the “right” moment.
Looking back now, there was no better scenario in which I could’ve placed down the card. Yet during my match, I was wholly convinced that I would later gain a higher sense of awareness, entering some sort of epiphanic trance that would will my hand to slam down the card, to which I would then rake in mounds and mounds of cash.
Obviously, that sense of enlightenment never occurred, which explains why I lost the match and why I would continue to lose future matches until my Monopoly money — and my dignity — ran thin.
In short, trying to excavate a greater, “righter” moment from the present did nothing but break my momentum, the steady rhythm I’d been cultivating since the beginning of the game. And in my efforts to maximize my success, I ended up losing right before I reached its apotheosis. How ironic. How sad.
I’ve noticed that this has been a recurring pattern throughout my life. Sometimes, it feels as though I’ve spent much of it simply waiting for something bigger to happen, waiting for some sort of “big bang” that would propel it into existence.
Initially, I thought this feeling had to do with a sense of lacking control, until I realized that my overt need to have more power over the events of my life was the very thing keeping me in this state of suspension. I’ve spent my life dwelling on the possibilities of what could happen and when these moments might occur, leaving little time for me to actually bring them about. In my pursuit of potential action, there was not much “action” being done.
Perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that I’ve come to believe that such passive approaches to life can’t be considered a form of “living” at all.
And I guess this is why some people enjoy the art of gambling.
Gambling forces us to take an active approach to both the game and life — no one can tell you the best moment for you to put down your cards; you need to figure it out for yourself, right there, in the heat of the moment. There is no time to ruminate, no time for hesitation.
Waiting to deploy the cards at your leisure will only lay them to waste; thus, it is important for us to seize all the opportunities we pick up in life and use them without delay. Hesitation will lead to nothing but stagnation. Acting with intention, even when it will result in failure, is better than doing nothing at all.
Madison Kim is a first-year in the College of Arts & Sciences. This is the fourth installment of her column, Don’t Let the Dust Settle.