Lessons From the Poker Table, From the Girl with a “Nice” Face

“I see potential in your face,” a good friend declared.

I stared at him in disbelief.

Because I have a nice face. 

Not the serious face of a scholar.

Not the square face of an athlete.

Not the resting mean face of someone who is “a real force of nature” — destined to be taken seriously.

(As a teenager, I secretly hoped my face would be good enough for Hollywood, but — alas! — a nice face is not the same as a glamorous face.)

I grew up believing a person with a nice, smiley, friendly face like mine has limited potential. I believed nice people finish last.

With a nice face like this, I decided the highest potential I could hope for was doing something … well, nice. So, I took this nice face to college and graduated with a degree in Social Work. I officially typecast myself as a sugary sweet, do-gooder, people-pleaser, doormat. 

As the years passed by, one more quickly than the next, I was getting bored with the limits I had placed on myself. I questioned my beliefs and began to wonder:

What if this nice face could do more? I explored possibilities I’d only dreamt about; maybe I could start a consulting business, become a professional speaker, compete in triathlons, and maybe even take myself more seriously. 

And right around this time, poker entered my life. 

A good friend introduced me to the game, declaring, “I see potential in your face.”

At first, I was intimidated by all the faces around the poker table — they were staunch and straight. They avoided eye contact while confidently betting large piles of chips. Immediately I backed down, relying on my old “nice face” beliefs. I told myself, “I don’t have a chance against that guy, look how serious he is. He’s probably going to win. If I bet that amount of money, I’m just going to lose it. I’m too nice to win.”

In the beginning, I lost a lot of poker tournaments. But quitting wasn’t an option, I committed myself to testing the limits of my old beliefs.  Besides, I enjoyed meeting new people, and I was having fun, so I kept coming back to play.  I’m so glad I did because I learned some valuable lessons around the poker table.

  1. It doesn’t matter what your face looks like; the cards always have the final say about who wins. When you face down an opponent who’s just gone all-in, and you know you’ve got four-of-a-kind, nothing about the look of his face is going to make his cards beat yours. 
  2. As soon as I took poker seriously and committed to studying the game, it suddenly didn’t matter what my face looked like. Instead of being a victim of someone else’s intimidating big bets and hard stares, I took control of my doubts with newfound knowledge. I learned to calculate the risk and the odds more effectively, I learned to see card combinations that could beat other cards more readily. I learned when to bet, what to bet and when to fold. I committed to a poker strategy that works for me. Ladies and gentlemen, this became the face of a learner who now understands how the game is played. 
  3. You never know about a face until you see them bet on a few hands.  Some mean-looking faces are nice and just like to play poker – they aren’t out to get ya. Some nice-looking faces are cut-throat and want all the chips to themselves – by the way – these players don’t always get what they want.
  4. My face has become my number one advantage. I win poker games because people don’t see me coming. The other players — mostly men — see a nice face and often don’t take me seriously. They either think I’m not smart enough or become strangely intimidated because they don’t quite know what to do with a nice face like mine.  
  5. I’ve been tempted to change my face to appear more like the ones around the poker table, but the most important lesson I came away from the poker table is this: I’ve gained an appreciation and admiration for my nice face and the nice features that come along with it. This is a face of a woman who knows how to be kind to the many faces at the table, who wins gracefully and accepts defeat humbly. I wouldn’t change a thing about my face.

As it turns out, this face is just a front for untapped, unlimited potential. I no longer make decisions believing “nice people finish last.” I’ve started a business, become a professional speaker, competed in triathlons, and climbed mountains. I can learn, practice, and work hard to become great at things. I don’t have time to underestimate myself anymore, I see a future filled with dreams and possibilities.

I’m determined to go after every opportunity of untapped potential, one poker tournament at a time.


Published by: Lori Young

Lori Young’s passion for God and her love for speaking and coaching have combined forces in a powerful message for women who hide the most valuable parts of themselves for the approval of others. Lori comes by this truth honestly. For years, she kept her value hidden to avoid disapproval, rejection, criticism, and conflict. Through the difficult experience of divorce, heartbreak, and broken relationships, Lori has emerged with a passion to break down what she’s learned and provide tools to help other women re-emerge to live authentically and intentionally. She is a Certified Enneagram Coach and loves coaching one on one and in group settings. You can learn more about her speaking and coaching services at loriyoungcoaching.com

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