Friday, July 19, 2013

The Turn Changed Nothing

At one point a couple of weeks ago I was helping cover a pot-limit Omaha event at the World Series of Poker with my friend and colleague Rich. A hand arose in which a player was all in before the flop and at risk, and someone commenting on the hand amused us greatly with his narration as the hand played out before us.

Not to get too caught up in specifics, the grins began with the commentator uttered the phrase “the turn changed nothing” when in fact the turn card had given the at-risk player a flush draw with one card to come. Rather than changing nothing, the turn had greatly improved his chances, giving him nine more outs to survive.

To make a short story even shorter, we laughed afterwards about the phrase being misused, then I began repurposing it in various ways.

“The turn changed nothing,” I’d say, then, adopting the character of a not-so-savvy player and/or observer, I’d add: “I’m still a moron.”

I suppose in just about every work environment there will develop a special language between workers used both to describe their assigned tasks and perhaps to comment on them, too, sometimes sarcastically. Thus did we start to employ the phrase “the turn changed nothing” as a kind of shorthand for anything worthy of criticism or that struck us as at all funny.

You know, a little emblem of absurdity, added to the catalogue. Every workplace has got ’em.

I realize what I’m describing might not make much sense out of context, and now that I’m back home and in an environment where I doubt I’ll ever encounter a spot where I might say “the turn changed nothing” I’m starting to think of the phrase a little differently.

In truth, in hold’em or Omaha the turn always changes something, except in those rare instances when a player is already drawing dead after the flop, in which case you could say nothing changes with the turn or the the river, at least as far as the outcome of the hand is concerned. I think that was part of the reason why the phrase seemed so funny to us, namely, because it so rarely applies.

Of course, even in those situations when the flop utterly decides who is going to win a hand, the turn card still brings a hand one step closer to its conclusion, even if only as a formality. When players are drawing dead on the flop, the dealer still deals a turn and a river as though running out a grounder even after being thrown out at first. Although the cards don’t affect the outcome, they are somehow needful nonetheless.

Last night I was talking to someone about my summer in Vegas who at one point began asking me if it had been a worthwhile, positive experience. At first I wanted to answer jokingly, to laugh at the idea of self-reflection and dismissively characterize the whole time as having “changed nothing.”

But in fact it was a positive experience, and entirely worthwhile. And besides, it’s never true that what we do changes nothing, even if it seems otherwise.

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Blogger Aztec said...

Nice post - simple yet profound. Brought to mind some lyrics from Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now -

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

7/25/2013 3:00 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Great song, great album (Clouds).

7/25/2013 3:12 PM  

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