Are you an unlucky person?

I was watching the final round of the Shell Houston Open PGA tour event and saw Jordan Spieth on hole number 18 hit a really bad bunker shot that cost him a chance to continue in the playoff. He also hit a bad tee shot, followed by a bad approach shot, but during his bunker shot he heard a camera click at the top of the swing and in the moment was upset about it and blamed the camera click for the bad shot.

I was so happy to hear in his post game interview that he did NOT blame the camera click and stood fully responsible for the way he played the hole. I then tweeted that this kind of mindset is what champions are made of. Champions stand responsible for their results rather than blame it on bad luck or circumstances.

Now, is it possible that the camera click affected his shot? Absolutely, but what is the value in focusing any energy on that? It wasn’t within his control to stop people from taking pictures, and this sort of thing is part of the game, it happens to every golfer. Sure, maybe not in such high pressure situations, it certainly shouldn’t happen, but it does.

When Tiger Woods was young and his father was coaching him, he used to throw things at him during his backswing and do all sorts of things to try and distract Tiger. His father knew that if he practiced under those conditions, he would be better suited to handle them when they happened out on the course. I think it was brilliant. Rather than complain about the “bad luck” of a bird chirping, a dog barking, or a child crying in your backswing, understand that it could happen and that you are 100% responsible for how you react to it!

Was the reason Jordan Spieth didn’t win this tournament due to bad luck? Certainly that camera click can be viewed as an unlucky break, but that’s not where champions focus their energy. They focus on the poor tee shot that put him in a bad spot, and the difficult approach that led to being in the bunker. Point being, there is no value for him to blame the camera click. Instead, a champion looks at how he can stand responsible for what happened and look to improve upon it for next time.

Maybe for Spieth that means hitting some balls with people trying to distract him, I don’t know, but I was thoroughly impressed with how the 21 year old handled himself. Sure he was upset and played victim in the moment, that’s understandable. He was frustrated. After reflection, his mindset shifted and he realized that he was fully responsible for not winning the event and it’s one reason I think he will be around a long time- aside from his natural talent and skill.

I can’t help but think about how this was an excellent example of how so many poker players deal with situations. The best players, when they bust from a tournament ask themselves this:

-What could I have done differently?
-Were there any previous hands that I misplayed that led to me being short stacked?
-Did I miss any opportunities to steal chips that could have helped me?

Sometimes the top professional will answer those questions and be content to know they did their best and the bust was unavoidable. So what do “victims” do? Instead of asking themselves questions that empower them to be better for their next event, they may say something like this, “Brutal, I lost all seven races I was in, and then finally get KK cracked by QQ to bust.”

I ask you, what value is there in telling this story? How does it help you? Does venting help you get it off of your chest? Do you crave the empathy from others? Do you want approval, as in, “Yes, you poor thing you are so unlucky?”

Some people absolutely do crave that sort of attention and I think it’s both unhealthy and unproductive. This player would be better served to ask himself the following questions:

-Was it correct to play such big pots in race situations?
-Was I stealing all the chips I should have been stealing?
-Did I make too many bad calls on the river because I was steaming about losing races?

You see, from these questions you can create real value! Introspection, learning, and being open to growth and new possibilities. This is what champions do. I promise you. They may bemoan their bad luck in the moment out of frustration, but ultimately the real winners in life are those who look for the lesson and stand responsible for their results.

Now, if the first hand of a tournament I get all in with AA against AJ and lose, was that my fault? Well, it was my choice to play the AA for all my chips so I stand 100% responsible for the result. That doesn’t have to mean I did something wrong or that I wouldn’t do it again, but it’s me who is responsible for every decision that leads me to bust out of a tournament.

The tweet that caused some discussion was this one that I wrote: “Losers blame bad luck and circumstance. Little do they know they actually create more of it. If you believe you are unlucky, you are right!”

Some took exception to this way of thinking, but I think they are missing the deeper meaning here. If you believe you are unlucky and flip a coin for $100 with a friend who thinks he is lucky, the odds are still 50-50. The deeper meaning here is all about PERCEPTION shaping your reality.

For example: John Smith finishes 3rd in a tournament where he was the best player left, but got AA beat by Q9 all in preflop to bust. He won $118,000. Earlier in the tournament he was all in with QQ against AK and won that hand to stay in the tournament. Is John Smith unlucky to finish 3rd, or lucky to have gotten there?

We all are entitled to an opinion, there is no right or wrong answer here. For John Smith, all that will matter is how HE perceives it! if he thinks he was unlucky, then absolutely, he gets to be right! Or, if he chooses to look at it a different way, he may see it as a lucky result.

What defines being lucky in a poker tournament? Ultimately, who decides if John Smith was lucky or unlucky? John Smith does.

We are talking within the parameters of poker, but this philosophy extends far beyond the poker table. If you are looking at life through the lens of “I am unlucky” then that is what you will see. If you look at the world through the lens of anger, then anger is what you will see. If you look at life through the lens of joy, then joy is what you will see.

If you believe that past “bad luck” you have experienced makes you an unlucky person, then it’s likely that you will create a life where you make yourself right, while missing out on opportunities you can’t see through the foggy lenses you are wearing.

A poker example: I used to play cash games with Mike Matusow a lot in the old days and he was the unluckiest player in the world- just ask him. He believed he was a great player and the only reason he didn’t have a big bankroll was because of how bad he runs. By sharing this with the table, he has no idea how much more money it actually cost him.

You see, when you play against an opponent who truly believes they are unlucky, they can be exploited in many ways. With Mike, I would run bluffs in spots where he would think, “Of course he made the flush. This is how I run!!!! (as he shows top set to the rest of the table) Y’all couldn’t last a month if you ran like me. This is the fifth straight set I flopped and lost to a flush.” He mucks his hand, and I quietly muck the middle pair and backdoor flush draw that I missed.

If you allow yourself to let luck clutter your decision making, then you won’t be making decisions based on logic, math, and the play of the hand. You lose out, all because of your mindset. Those voices in your head saying, “How the hell can I keep getting screwed like this??? These lucky bastards have no clue how much better I play than they do. If I had 10% of the luck they had I would bust them all.”

I used to watch the old WSOP tapes from the late 70’s and early 80’s on ESPN and I find it remarkable how in every interview, or at every opportunity, the players with mostly inflated egos would say, “Well, I tell you what, he is gonna have to draw out to beat me.” They took pride in getting it in with the best hand. If they win, they get the money. If they lose, they can stake claim to still being the best player, but clearly just unlucky. Calling someone lucky in this context was used to insult the other person. “You didn’t win because you are good, you only beat me because you were lucky.”

In closing, your perception of events creates your reality of those events. If you see an event as unlucky, then in your reality, that’s exactly what it was, unlucky. Another person may see that event as lucky for you through different lens, that is their reality. Same event can derive totally opposing views. You may see it as unlucky that you bubbled a $10k buy in tournament with AA, while another person may see you as lucky to have even had the opportunity to pay $10k to enter a tournament. An opportunity they can only dream of one day having.

What is the actual reality of this event? It’s completely neutral. It’s an event that happened. That is all. Not good, not bad, just is. It becomes good, bad, lucky, or unlucky, only after you add your perception of what happened.