Tough Luck: When a Winning Hand just isn't in the Cards

January 24, 2011
When I was sixteen, I first learned to play euchre. I never had much interest in the game, but constantly felt left out when I heard my friends debating about ‘bagging,’ ‘bowers,’ and ‘farmers,’ while I stood there like a foreigner trying not to look like completely dumb-founded. In euchre, like in school, you aren’t always dealt that hand you want. But you still play for the win, even if the odds are against you. And believe me, in school, it seems like more times than not, the odds are against you…

One of my favorite quotes to live by, (and I have many of them), is: “Fail with honor, rather than succeed by fraud.” I’m not sure if the saying, “Once a cheater, always a cheater” applies in this situation, but I do know that I could never live with myself if I took credit for work that was not my own.

Everyone says junior year is hard, and I am by no means about to disagree. My stress, ironically, was math. Since when have I struggled with math? It has always been my best subject. It could never be the subject I struggle with the most. Another lesson I learned this year—never say never. Because, just when it seems like you are going to be dealt the perfect hand, you learn that it only takes one bad card to spoil the game.

My junior year, I took pre-calculus. I have done extremely well in previous math courses. However, the pre-calculus class was very difficult. Just like euchre, this particular math class was filled with lots of tricks, and even some dirty play. It was upsetting, because I knew that although I did not have one of the higher grades, I understood the material more than many. However, my test scores never reflected this. Why? Because this particular teacher gives the same tests every year, and the majority of the other students simply study the tests of previous students and ‘earn’ an A. In euchre, like in this math class, there are a few ways to get away with ‘cheating.’ If the other players in the game don’t catch you ‘table talking’ or ‘reneging,’ you are home free—but just because no one catches this, doesn’t mean you’ve won the game fairly.

At the start of the year, I was not as upset, because I knew in my heart that I was morally correct. What mattered was that I was studying hard, and doing everything on my own. Wrong answers on tests could not stop me from knowing that I was right. So, while many of my classmates may have been playing the game with an ace up their sleeve, I was still the one who knew just when it was the perfect time to lay down the wild card.

By the time December rolled around, I was getting pretty sick of this trend. Why should the students who break the code of conduct be rewarded with an A? Why does this teacher know that everyone uses the tests, but still refuses to take action? Why do the students using the tests not feel guilty about it? Well, since no one would take action about this, I learned to rely on myself to have integrity. I guess you could say that in this class I was going alone. In euchre, ‘going alone’ means that you have enough confidence in yourself to win, that you play a hand without your partner. In life, you have to be confident in yourself all the time, because sometimes your mentors and peers aren’t always as reliable as you would hope. The older you grow, and the more you play euchre, the more you learn that relying on yourself is probably your best bet to win the toughest games.

Now, I will admit, while the situation I was in did seem unfair, the thing I regret the most was that I continually showed too much sympathy for myself. Looking back on it now, I wasted way too much time and energy on being angry about a situation I could not control. That is the difference between an amateur and a professional euchre player. An amateur would complain about being dealt a hand that was stacked by the dealer, while a professional would still find a way to beat the odds.

Nothing was harder for me than getting my first B. It was hard because I knew it wasn’t fair. B for above average. Not A for excels. And not excelling is something I am not used to. I wish that B stood for: “Bryana really understood the information, and did all of the work on her own.”

I can’t lie and say that I’m content with my B. But I have taught myself not to feel guilty about it. Now, I will admit, I am not the smartest student in my school. But I want to be. And I try to be. And I am very competitive. And I can promise you that anything I do, I will do it with integrity. Over the years I have learned that Sparknotes, Cliffnotes, and Previously Used Math Tests, as tempting as they might be, will help no one in the end.

In the end, you don’t always win. But it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you played the game. My first few times playing euchre, well, it wasn’t too pretty. Even with terrible hands and untrusting partners, I learned that experience is all a part of the game. At first, I became very discouraged when I held a hand without any trump, or failed to assist my partners in winning any tricks. But even under these circumstances, I eventually improved after time and time again of playing the game. And those are still my favorite types of games—the ones where all the odds are against you, and you don’t have to win by rigging the deck.

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