the moment Ken realized he shouldn’t have left his abacus at home …

The other day I played a poker hand. It was a typical hand; there was nothing special about it. I had seen similar events play out many times before in exactly the same circumstances. Which is what made it interesting. A weak player flopped a straight against four other players. He had the best hand at that point but it was vulnerable to being compromised by the end of the hand. There was a bet and two calls in front of him. Instead of ending the hand there and winning it he opted to play it slow. He smooth called. By the River card the board was paired and a higher straight was possible. He got all his money in but by that stage he was third best. He could have won a little pot; he ended up losing a big one.

He got greedy. I see it in poker all the time. I see it in life as well, although poker is an excellent reflection of life, (which is why I like it so much). Someone buys some shares at $15 a share. They go up to $20 in a small amount of time. They sell and they make a good profit. They’re happy, but then the shares rise to $25. Now they start kicking themselves. “I should have held onto it! I could have made so much more money!”

But you were happy when you sold it at $20. Why should it make you unhappy when it rose further? The person who purchased your shares at $20 also made money when it rose to $25. Don’t you want to share it around a bit? You got yours but he got his also.

You can never pick the exact moment to buy or sell a stock. You never know when it’s going to be the bottom and you never know when it’s going to be the top. So you try and operate somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. But people do try to hit it perfectly. Not because they want to be perfect but because they’re greedy. They wait and wait and wait and then maybe they end up losing it all.

You’re never going to have that perfect moment in life to act. Someone once said, if you launch your product when it’s perfect then you waited way too long to launch it. It’s greed that freezes people into indecision. They want it all and they want to be able to boast that they were smart enough to get it perfect. So it’s greed, insecurity and immaturity all rolled into one, along with a healthy dose of being outcome dependent.

The guy in the poker hand with the busted straight went on tilt. He hunkered down and waited for a really strong hand. He spent the next two hours folding. All he did was fold. And then he suddenly raised from early position. I was sitting way back in the cut-off with 78 of hearts. I knew what hand he had. I called him. Two of us to the flop. It came, Queen – 5 – 7. No hearts. He made a little bet because he didn’t want to scare me off. He wanted all my money. At that point he had me beat but he was letting me into the hand. I called him. The Turn came a 3. Once again a little bet and I called. He was reeling me in. Then came the River. It was a 7. Now he made his move. He made a big bet. But it was too late. He had given me a chance to draw out on him and that’s exactly what I had done. Now I moved in for all my chips. I knew he’d call me because he had to. He turned over his pocket Aces. He could have won a small pot on the flop if he’d made a decent size bet. But he got greedy. Once again he lost it all.

In my book, Pushing Rubber Downhill I show how I enriched my life through adventure and experiences. There were times when I could have been greedy but I didn’t fall into the trap. See if you can spot them.