Poker Lessons

Gambling game taught one reader some valuable, life-long lessons

As is the case with most young people, I was convinced I had good instincts, superb intellectual prowess and an enviable humility quotient. This introspective opinion was bolstered by the fact that I had, by the age of 15, avoided bankruptcy, incarceration and serious bodily injury. Insights gained from these facilities and this short list of my achievements contributed to the deep conviction that any devotion to academic pursuit would be a waste of time and effort.

Back then, professional people were making less than $20,000 a year and I calculated that if I avoided the character wrecking vanity of any scholarly undertaking I could probably recover the lost revenue in less than 25 or so years.

Our beloved Canadian author Stephen Leacock recalled the advice his father had given him: “Never work in a small town for low wages for a man you hate”. This advice however, was not available to me as I had sagaciously strategized myself out of exposure to it by applying the above described educational philosophy.

Had Mr. Leacock’s father known about logging camps, he would have advised his son to not work in a small town and to avoid at all costs working in logging camps.

Anvil Logging paid entry-level employees $2.10 per hour before room and board deductions. If you put in a long day, you could net about $20 in wages.

The final component in this triad of misery was the tyrannical owner of the outfit, a man named Hans Schmidt.

You probably have it figured out and I won’t prevaricate, I hired on. I did not hate Mr. Schmidt immediately, it took about eight hours to really satisfy the definition of the word “hate”.

Recreation and entertainment were not high on the list of employee benefits. Smoking, drinking and playing cards (especially poker) were the recreational trifecta in a logging camp.

I soundly reasoned that if one was destined to vice (which it seemed I was) there should be some prospect of gain. Poker was the logical choice as I was too young to drink and smoke.

Gambling, I learned, has traditions and protocols. The younger you were in this fraternity, the greater the expectation was that you take at face value the instructions and opinions of senior players. Generally, the Truckers, Cat Skinners and Fallers were respected by virtue of age and experience.

Although my losses were minimal, it became apparent that I needed some instruction on points of finesse and tactics.

Charlie was a below average logger but an above-average poker player. His tuition fee was $157 per lesson. I took one lesson and have not lost any hard earned wages on a poker table ever since.

Mea Culpa is a Latin phrase meaning “through my fault” or in current and common parlance “my bad”. It was my fault that I lost my wages in the above narrative. I have also lost a great deal of time as most of us have trusting and investing in persons of low character… Mea Culpa.

Nevertheless…-et deinceps, sursum- onward and upward.

Don Ahlquist

Gull Lake, AB