Opinion: Gambling can teach important life lessons

Poker in South Carolina is illegal — very illegal — but it shouldn’t be since college students could benefit from playing. Current South Carolina law says that it is against the law to play poker, even if there is no money involved, yet the game teaches a variety of skills that can help develop a young student into a headstrong, successful adult.

Poker is not entirely a game of chance. The only parts you can’t control are the cards you are given and, to an extent, the personalities of those around you. Chance, however, is an important lesson all on its own.

In life, there will be those that always look to shift the blame of their misfortune to something other than themselves. While there are plenty of examples of terrible situations out of someone's control, chance teaches the player to step back and see what they have, and then, if it is not that great, to focus on what you can fix. In other words, learn to play with the hand you're dealt.

Hand in hand with dealing with chance also comes learning discipline. Poker is a game that will very quickly teach a player what happens if they let their emotions get the better of them. Those emotions can be either anger or elation. A player who doesn’t keep anger in check will quickly spiral out of control. Alternatively, a player who is on a hot streak needs to maintain a level head to keep the money they’ve earned.

Sometimes in life, you need to take risks or face the unknown. Perhaps you are stuck in a career or relationship you hate or have grand plans that you feel you never have time for because you already have a job you are devoted to, but it takes courage to look at the unknown and decide you can make it through.

In poker, you are always facing unknowns and, a lot of the time, facing risky hands — but so is everyone else. It takes courage to confront the other players with only your money and the assumption that their resolve is not as strong as yours.

In these confrontations, however, no matter how courageous or cautious the player is, there will inevitably be times of failure. Failure is something that poker players must deal with consistently. It comes around every few minutes with each passing hand and sometimes can be a brutal loss. The ability to accept it and move on to the next hand is a skill that sets successful people apart from others.

Not only does poker help players emotionally, but logically and mathematically as well. Players learn to weigh the risks versus rewards of calling bets of varying sizes. They do this while simultaneously calculating the odds of various cards showing up and how that will impact their chances of winning.

Life is a constant game of deciding whether or not an investment will pay off. Even decisions between activities as simple as playing, working or sleeping can be improved with skills learned at the poker table. Decisions like these are all too familiar to the average college student.

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