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Gamble 105: When The Rubber Meets The Road

by Nathan Gamble |  Published: Dec 16, 2020

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(Editor’s Note: This is part three of a series of articles that can be found on CardPlayer.com under Nathan Gamble’s author page.)

As he twisted and turned in his seat, keeping the gun on me, the seriousness of the situation continued to take hold. It was a serious situation I had found myself in, held at gunpoint in my own car. As he twisted and turned in his seat, I realized this thief wasn’t a professional. He wasn’t someone that had executed this move before, this was simply a man that had a drug habit or possibly a mental deficiency.

He had been backed into a corner and was lashing out to survive. A man on a mission is one thing, but a man simply trying to survive by any means necessary is a far more dangerous beast.

As we drove along a stretch of highway with orange construction cones and caution signs, new options started coming to me faster than the rambling speech that poured from his mouth. Ramming another car so as to disable my car and potentially injure my captor ran through my mind, but that was quickly dismissed as I didn’t want to injure an innocent person just on the hope that it would improve my situation.

Next up on the smorgasbord of options was smashing into an orange cone; after all, there were hundreds of them spaced out as far as the eye could see – giant, glistening, calling out my name to steer directly into them. It seemed perfect. No collateral damage, and it could get the job done and potentially give me the upper hand. There was only one problem. While he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, in my shock-induced state, I had forgotten to put mine on as well. The cones appeared innocent enough but often times they are filled with hundreds of gallons of water that would disintegrate the front end of the car and anyone not buckled in. While it would end the threat of the crazy man in my passenger seat, I couldn’t be sure that I would survive the impact.

With that option off the table, I was left to listen as the bandit blathered on with every passing exit. He was like an annoying friend on a long road trip (albeit with a gun pointed at me). Suddenly a new opportunity arose out of thin air as I spotted police car lights in the distance. Never before had I viewed the flashing red and blue lights with such joy, but they were real and they were beautiful.

As we approached, I started planning my next move. I planned to barely pass the police car and grab the emergency brake, slamming us to a sudden stop. I would be able to brace myself while hopefully catching him off-guard long enough to jump out and run over to the officer without catching a bullet in the back. I could escape the situation, save myself, not hurt any pedestrians in the process, and all would be right in the world.

It was a perfect plan. A great plan. None better! Except, it was also an obvious plan. The second I looked over at him I realized he had stopped his rambling and was getting noticeably antsy, his eyes shifting between me and the distant lights, his finger itching in his lap. He looked and me and knew what I was thinking, knew what was coming. He just looked at me, and while barely breathing snarled, “Don’t.”

Before I even realized it, the cop car was in the rearview mirror. I had passed up my opportunity. I didn’t have the jump on him and I knew it. It wasn’t worth it to try an escape when he was on edge and at high alert. While it was a great move on paper it would have failed catastrophically in reality. The best course of action was once again no action. I was trapped and defenseless, back where I had started.

As we drove deeper into downtown Dallas, he started getting more and more comfortable. I couldn’t tell you exactly where we drove. In fact, later on the cops asked me many times if I could direct them to the exact location, but it was all a blur at that point. What was clear was how we seemed to be coming into an area that he had familiarity with. We had jumped off the highway and started taking back roads into rundown neighborhoods. He threw up a couple gang signs along the way, a nod here and there, a holler out the window at a couple guys standing in their yards.

I stood out like a sore thumb.

Everyone we passed shot him a nod or a wave and a look of confusion underpinned with disgust and hatred at me. It was clear I wasn’t welcome here and the only reason that I was allowed in without any trouble was because I was accompanied by someone they knew.
“You’re lucky you’re wearing blue and rolling with me, otherwise they probably would have already shot you,” he said as he looked me up and down.

It was nice of him to keep reminding me how lucky I was that day, because I sure didn’t feel it.

When making decisions in life, most people are unwilling to adapt. Their minds are set in stone, and even if they get information that contradicts them, they are often times unwilling to adjust course. I had developed a plan on the highway, I was ready, and I had determined it was my best chance at getting out alive. But then I stopped, I looked around, I got new information, and I adjusted accordingly.

In poker there is always a wealth of information to absorb. Just because you have started down one avenue at the table doesn’t mean it’s too late to adjust. Flexibility is absolutely critical to success as a poker professional. You can beebop along while everything is going well, and life seems like sunshine and rainbows when your bluffs work every time. But you have to be able to adjust. You have to be flexible. The nuts can change with the turn of a card, and new information can present itself in a nervous laugh or comment.

There is no room for ego at the tables, you have to remove yourself from the equation and step out of your own way. If you’re dead set on a path and fail to notice the wall standing in your way, then time and time again you’ll leave the tables shaking your head wondering why you’re so unlucky.

Poker is a microcosm of life, replicating all of the trials and tribulations that we undertake throughout our day-to-day journey. No two tournaments are alike, no two tables, not even the same player on a different day of the week. You are always changing whether it’s through conscious thought or based off the whims of circumstance, why would you think that your opponents aren’t doing the same?

I remember distinctly when I placed tenth at the World Series of Poker in the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better event. On day three I raised with ASpade Suit AHeart Suit 9Club Suit JDiamond Suit with a plan of trying to steal the blinds preflop or get it in against anyone willing. Then I was re-potted by the tightest player at the table who had shown a propensity to only have ultra-premium holdings.

The circumstances had changed. I thought endlessly, probably around five minutes. I knew that he was going to be freerolling me the majority of the time and that I could find a better spot for my chips. I folded and showed him the aces while mucking the rest of the hand. His eyes went wide, and while he didn’t show me his hand, he told me afterward that he had AClub Suit ADiamond Suit 3Club Suit 4Diamond Suit and had me in very bad shape. I tended to believe him as he also asked to swap 10 percent of the tournament because he felt I was playing above the rim.

The truth was I was just paying attention and willing to adjust my plan on the fly in the face of new information. Never be afraid of making the difficult decision of acting through inaction. ♠

Nathan Gamble is a native of Texas where he learned to play the game of hold’em from his father. He is a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, the first coming in the 2017 WSOP $1,500 PLO8/b Event, the second in the 2020 Online WSOP $600 PLO8/b event. A fixture of the mid-stakes mixed game community since moving to Las Vegas in 2019, he can often be found playing $80-$160 games at the Wynn. He is active on Twitter under the username Surfbum4life and streams mixed game content weekly on twitch under the same moniker.