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March 18, 2023


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Red State Kulander

I remember as a kid being disappointed by the advice given in this song. The song sets up the promised discourse on gambling skills in a masterful way in the first two verses, but then - I argue - fails to deliver. Let's consider the advice given in this song, which covers both the famous refrain and one of the verses:

"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em"

(Yeah, that's pretty important. How, exactly?)

"Know when to walk away
And know when to run"

(Again, a pretty important skill in some lines of work, with the choice being particularly fact-specific, I imagine.)

"You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for counting
When the dealin's done"

(Not how it works in some of the poker tournaments I've seen while bathiscoping through deep cable. Players ask each other all the time how many chips they have. But, I will accept that, interpreting the lyrics in the context of the time, as informed by the video and cheesy TV movies, this passes for a piece of actual advice. So, check.)

On to the pertinent verse:

"Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep"

So, what's the secret?

"'Cause every hand's a winner
And every hand's a loser"

How profound.

"And the best that you can hope for is to die
In your sleep"

Counts double for faculty meetings. An ace the narrator can keep, my foot!

Oh, and a recommendation: "Gambler" by Mangrove

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