There are a lot of analogies that relate to life that can be seen in poker. It’s actually something that has so intrigued me about the game over the years, as I often find myself comparing my situation in life to starting hold-em poker hands.
Well, being in the travel industry throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I find the poker analogies ever useful to describe my situation again. When I joined this industry, I knew that a bad hurricane in a destination or a media’s unfair attacks or fearmongering about a destination could easily mean the difference between a banner year for us and a horrible year. My colleagues who have been in the industry far longer have told me about horrible times before, like Bird Flu, Swine Flu, and 9/11, and how it impacted their businesses. As we entered 2020, the first two months of the year set record sales numbers for us, and we were looking forward to our best year ever.
In poker, I’d say we were looking at pocket aces; we couldn’t be stopped.
And then March, and Coronavirus, and the lock-downs took hold of the world. Fear took over and the world stopped traveling. As a travel agent, we only earn a paycheck after guests travel, so our personal income came to a grinding halt, but unlike other industries where if you lose your job, you don’t have to work, the work didn’t stop for us. It got busier as we worked to reschedule, rebook, or dreadfully, cancel guests’ trips. We’ve never worked so hard to not earn any income.
There’s a saying in poker, “A Chip & A Chair,” and it stems from the 1982 world series main event where Jack Straus won the tournament after being down to only a single chip remaining in his stack. It means that as long as you have one chip left and a seat at the table, you aren’t dead yet, and you can still come back and win. Well, if this year of life was a poker hand, we started off looking great — looking down at our cards and seeing pocket Aces!! We were a clear favorite to win, and we got all our chips in, but the year 2020 ended up sucking out on us with a 7,2 off-suit by the end of the hand. But, that was just one hand, and we still have a chip left.
While we’ve been working for “free” for months, and will continue to do so until our guests travel, we are not working for “nothing.” We’re working for our guests, who have trusted us for years, when they could always book another way. We are working for our future, and our own personal livelihood because the travel industry, the largest industry in the world, is also the most resilient. We are working for the staff in the destinations we sell, because their livelihoods depend on us. We are working for the concierges, the bellmen, the waitstaff, the gardners, the boat captains, snorkel guides, the front desk staff, the maids, the owners, the tour guides, the shop owners, the bus drivers, and everyone whose lives depend on tourism.
This crisis has caused us all to put things into perspective. For us, it’s not Fendi bags, Rolex watches, or nice cars that do much of anything to satisfy our souls, but it’s travel, and it always has been. Travel reaches you in a way nothing else can. In 40 years, the bag will be tattered, the watch will no longer work, and the car will be rotting in a junk-yard. But the memories you have from some of the best moments and most unique experiences of your life — those are more valuable than any material thing, and will live on forever.
Knowing this, we choose to keep things in perspective, and realize just how lucky we are and have been – even if it means for now, we can’t travel, and we don’t have any income. We have a chip and a chair, and in time, travel will return.