Whether it?s a true story or merely apocryphal really isn?t important. The gist of it is about how politically correct, feel-good teaching created a generation of kids set up for failure in the real world.
While Gates - who reportedly likes a good poker game every now and then - might not have made the connection, these rules apply to poker just as well as they do to the real world. For those who haven?t found this email in their in-basket, here are Gates? eleven rules, along with a few comments of my own.
Rule Number One: Life is not fair; get used to it.
Comment: If poker were fair, you?d never hear a bad-beat story and good players would beat poor players every time. But here?s the rub: If that were true, the pool of available players would winnow away from the bottom up. Pretty soon you?d find yourself at the bottom of the barrel, and then you?d stop playing too. After all, if you never won, why would you continue to risk your money? The fact that poor players win enough to keep them coming back to the game is a good thing, not a bad one. While Dame Fortune might not play any more fairly with us in poker than in the real world, that?s a good thing, not a bad one. After all, everyone needs hope and a dream to hang onto. Especially poker players.
Rule Number Two: The world won?t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Comment: Same thing?s true in poker. You won?t get any R-E-S-P-E-C-T at the poker table until you earn it. And respect is much more easily lost than won. Witness all the otherwise good players who lose any respect they might have otherwise earned just because they are bullies who think it their right to berate dealers, less-experienced players, and anyone else in their immediate vicinity.
Rule Number Three: You will not make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won?t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Comment: Money is just like respect at the poker table. It has to be by working for it. Just sitting down with a hat ¾ gained the old-fashioned way full of ego and aspiration won?t get the job done. Work will. But it probably won?t come easy, so be forewarned: Poker is a hard way to make an easy living.
Rule Number Four: If you think your teacher is tough, wait ?till you get a boss.
Comment: You?re the boss in poker, unless you have a financial backer and have to answer to him or her about your results. But working for yourself doesn?t mean that your boss is a pushover. Most successful people who work for are a lot tougher on themselves than most ¾ at poker or elsewhere ¾ themselves bosses in the work-a-day world would ever dream of being on their employees.
Rule Number Five: Flipping hamburgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for it; they called it opportunity.
Comment: Playing $2-$4 poker shouldn?t be beneath your dignity either. You probably can?t beat bigger games before proving yo9urself successful at lower limits. After all, when you first begin playing poker, you?re going to pay your dues. You might as well make them as inexpensive as possible. Low limit poker is an inexpensive way to hone your skills. Just think of it as opportunity.
Rule Number Six: If you mess up, it?s not your parents? fault. So don?t whine about your mistakes - learn from them.
Comment: And don?t blame the dealer for a run of bad cards, a run of bad luck, or an appalling lack of skill and effort. If you lose consistently at poker, the reason is easy to find. It?s staring back at you from every mirror you pass.
Rule Number Seven: Before you were born your parents weren?t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent?s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.
Comment: And before you bore everyone within listening distance about how you?re the best poker player that ever was or will be, and that all the winners of the World Series of Poker got lucky, go out and do some winning yourself. But you?ll have to do some learning first. Finding out if you?ve got the right stuff isn?t easy. It takes guts, perseverance, and a deep dig into your heart, mind, and soul to tap these latent skills. So spare us the braggadocio; we?ll know you?re good - really good - and you?ll get your due once you earn it.
Rule Number Eight: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they?ll give you as many tries as you want to get the right answer. This doesn?t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Comment: It doesn?t bear the slightest resemblance to real poker either. If you lose, you?ll have less money than you did when you started. If you win, you?ll have more. The excuses and blame placing are free, of course, but they won?t bring back your money.
Rule Number Nine: Life is not divided into semesters. You don?t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
Comment: And winning or losing today in poker is not important. It?s a long-run game, and the long run is a longer time coming than you might imagine. And in poker, vacations, self-analysis, and everything else you do outside of playing is done on your own time. You can?t win if you?re not in the game. But then again, you won?t win if you don?t acquire the necessary knowledge and skills along with the right mindset to allow you to put these skills to good use.
Rule Number Ten: Television is NOT real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Comment: And real poker is not like the Cincinnati Kid, Rounders, or reruns of Maverick. It?s a lot more work and a lot less glamorous.
Rule Number Eleven: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you?ll end up working for one.
Comment: It wasn?t too long ago that many old-time poker players were fond of putting down the Internet poker community that can be found exchanging ideas on Rec.Gambling.Poker. But that was before the millennium: the year RGPers Chris Ferguson won the World Series of Poker and Spencer Sun won the Tournament of Champions. So don?t make too much fun of that nerd in your poker game. After all, your losses might be paying for the new car he?s driving.