The Gambler

He said, son, I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces,
And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.
Now ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
’cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.

What is this knowledge that Kenny Rogers speaks of?

It is partially experiential, determined by years of gambling practice. A sedimented knowledge of gesture and code. However, if every hand is a winner and a loser, then there is a way of knowing that is immanent to the act of gambling itself. Knowledge immanent to the roll of the die or the dealing of a hand. Yet such knowledge is not contained within the die or the cards themselves, otherwise certain hands or rolls would be ‘winners’ (which, in reality, certain rolls or hands are, but lets keep it on the analogical level of the song). The knowledge is produced ‘by the way they held their eyes’, which is, literally manifest on the surface of what is happening, between what is happening, and, in fact, it is the ‘happening’. The positioning of the eye is determined by a relation between at least two probabilities and is one leading edge of a feedback loop the modulates the event of gambling.

Or, perhaps it is better to speak of it not as a knowledge — ie as an operation of retroactive overcoding backformed from the cessation of the event’s unfolding duration — but as a cosmic and modal posturing that speaks to a monadal relation to the world. It is from within the event that faces are read as indicating a postured relation to the world determined by the way others hold their eyes (if everyone is a gambler, which they are not, but, again, lets keep the analogy going). The only skill a gambler has — different from the knowledge of the game — is to control the way in which the gambling event is actualised, that is, manipulate the passage from the virtual to the actual.

The disciplining of the gamble-event speaks to the act of conditioning probabilities to a desired outcome. I am assuming that gamblers ostensibly want to ‘win’. From wild distributions of the relative weight of cards — ie some cards are ‘better’ than others — or the fall of the die to an either/or of winning or losing (or ‘running away’, that is, disengagement). Because gamblers have (ideally) no control over the random act of distribution (the deal or roll), the conditioning of probability is facilitated by a modulation of the gambling event. Of course, this is much more successful in card games and probably not even possible in games based on the roll of dice or the spin of the wheel. This capacity for skill within card games is what differentiates such games from other forms of gambling.

Rogers’ analogy of ‘gambling as life’ holds until the logic of the win/lose outcome is questioned. Not because people do not want to ‘win’ — sure? why not? ::shrug:: — but because people are playing different games within a singular gambling-event. Not everyone is following the same rules. Different codes and gestures pertaining to different conceptions of the present actuality and the contemporaneous temporal manifold ‘counter-actualisation’ of future-past virtuality. That is, the non-synchronicity of life rhythms adds another dimension of (im)probability that has to be calculated into the immanent feedback loop of knowing.

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