Busted Flush

by Jake Block

Like Kenny Rogers once told us, “Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser.” That might be true, as we know that Doyle Brunson, known as Texas Dolly on the professional poker circuit, once won a massive pot and his second World Championship of Poker bracelet with what is considered to be one of the worst initial two card draws in the game of Texas Hold ‘em. Most gamblers, being dealt a 10 and a 2, would toss the hand and just take the loss and try again with the next hand. Brunson “gutted it out” and played, not knowing that his chief opponent, Gary Berland had received a 10 and a 5.

At “the flop” (3 community cards dealt by the dealer) they had 10-8-5 to work with. Brunson was holding the losing hand with one pair, versus Berland’s higher hand of two pair, 10s and 5s. There were two more cards yet to see, and Brunson stuck with his hand as the “turn card,” a 2, gave him two pair…then “the river” card came into play and the dealer eased another 10 into the line of community cards, giving Brunson two pair. Berland immediately called “ALL IN,” (betting all of his chips) assuming he had won the hand, not knowing that the 10 card had given Brunson a full house, the winning hand. Brunson called Berland’s all in bet and won the World Championship of Poker with what had initially appeared to be a losing hand. His gutsy move netted him a cool $2,808,945.

Amazingly, it was the same hand with which he had won the World Championship of poker the year before. To this day, when one is dealt an initial 10 and 2, it’s known as the Doyle Brunson hand.

Most people don’t have that kind of luck and experience, nor do they have the innate skills that Doyle Brunson possesses, and probably not the financial wherewithal to make this “just another day at the office.”

“Everyone gets lucky once in a while, but no one is consistently lucky.” — Doyle Brunson

I’m not a world class card player, but I can hold my own. So I ante’d up and took my chances, there at the red-covered table. The cards came down in front of me in Spades. Seven, Four, Three, King and… Five of Hearts. Not even a Doyle Brunson hand, but a “Busted Flush.” It looks good in your hand, but really does nobody much good. Money down the hole, with nothing left to do but fold the hand or bluff.

A busted flush can cost you a lot of money if you’re playing poker in Vegas, and only the ballsiest of players will try to bluff it out with an all in bid. The dramatic showdown that’s been the money shot of gambling themed movies (has he got it?) seldom happens in real life, because professional gamblers are keen money managers and odds players, and their viability in the game is dependent on making good, strong bets and not throwing money at “turkeys” just to make a point.

A busted flush can also be applied to person, organization, or thing that at one time held great potential or influence but that ultimately ended up a failure. A start-up company that promised investors big returns, or an individual who talked a good game, but failed at every practical application where success was expected, or someone who surrenders their successful life to become addicted to alcohol or drugs can be seen as a busted flush. Quite simply, in human terms, a busted flush is someone that has not, despite potentials, fulfilled expectations; a failure.

We all know people to whom this term might well apply. They’re common in business, in the military, and in pretty much every endeavor in which skills, knowledge and common sense are prerequisites for success. And yes, you can and will find busted flushes traveling the Left Hand Path. Most often you can tell them by the “vehicle they drive”… all flash with little real power under the hood. Tooting their horn at every opportunity and desperately trying to get others to climb in and take a ride with them. It might be an interesting ride for a while, but sooner or later, they wind up running out of gas, and you realize you would have been better off on your own or taking a bus.

Now, many of these people have potential in whatever life-path they choose. And there’s no shame in folding the cards if you’ve been dealt a losing hand. It’s part of the game according to Hoyle. But too many want to win at all costs, chasing the final spade, even if they are 99% certain that it’s in someone else’s hand, and they are never going to get it. They’ll ask people with the least investment in their life to stake them to “just one more hand,” promising big returns, but some people are just unlucky, and some are unskilled, and some just throw even the viable hands away. They live their lives in wretched desperation, square pegs in round holes, when with a little effort, a little knowledge, a little reinvention and a little luck, the might just make it big and then go all in, and with a Royal Flush, at that!

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The Order of Pan
The Order of Cernunnos
The Order of Prometheus
The Order of Dionysis
The Order of Shiva