At the coffeehouse, on fate.

In war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” -Sun Tzu

The coffeehouse in Ximen, Taipei comprises of three floors where drinks are ordered at ground level while table and chairs are located at the first and second level. We picked a seat overlooking the busy street below. The simple joy of people watching came upon me as I lose myself in watching people passing me by.

There is a fascination that comes from watching a group after another walking from point A to point B. It is akin to a waterfall, where the water splits into individual droplets and still as whole, moving in one direction.

“What is his/her story?” I pondered.

The momentary joy was interrupted as my friend who got herself comfortable in her seat began to speak. It is a strange place to meet an old friend who had relocated to Melbourne for studies then work here in Taipei. I had only found out that she arrived to Taiwan few days ago via Facebook. A few exchange of messages and text, and here we sat.

As we sat and reminisce, the conversation drifted to a number of issues surrounding our personal lives. Some understanding of what the problem was later, she asked me a question that reminded me much of Phaedrus.

“What is the core of the problem?” she asked. I didn’t hesitate before answering, because I had thought about the problem and talked about it before. The answer I gave was “fate”. Thus it was inevitable that the conversation steer to this:

“What is fate?” asked the girl who I knew since I was twelve.

The question brought me back to early 2011, where I was spending much of my time in front of the monitor playing online poker. The beginning of the journey was difficult, as I saw the money I deposited dwindle to a single digit figure. Not knowing whether I was hit by a streak of bad luck, or was it due to a lack of skill, I was on the verge of giving up.

For a mixture of reasons, I did not. Looking back retrospectively, I can the dominating reason as bright as day – pride. At that period of time and space, I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t good enough, so I went online and started to read all the articles there is to read in poker strategy.

As time passed, my confidence grew in tandem with the knowledge I acquired, and I went back to playing online poker. Instantly, this hand happened:

I was in middle position, dealt 3d3c (pocket three). Before the action came to me, there was a raise and a call, so thinking that I had potential value if I had flopped a set of threes, I made the call before another player after me made the same decision. Low and behold, the first-three-card (flop) that came was 3h Jd and As.

A bet came from the player who had initially raised, second player folds and to me. Automatically, I re-raised at this spot, only to find out that the player after me raised my re-raise. Inevitably, all our chips went to the middle with my hand expecting to win.

He showed me AcKh, only a pair of Ace to show for while I had a set of threes. The winning percentages on this flop favours me greatly by 96% while he only had 4%. But wouldn’t you know it, another Ace came, increasing his winning percentage to 16%. Then, for the final card, the Jack came to pairthe board giving him a bigger fullhouse over my fullhouse.

The outcome of the hand reads as follows:he had fullhouse Ace over Jacks, while I had fullhouse Three over Jacks. Needless to say I was fuming in front of my screen. What I did after was lost on me, but there was a hole where the screen is suppose to be.

Retrospectively, I tabulate the various decision on the flop and came to the realisation that the outcome was inevitable. He was committed to push his single Ace, and I was committed to get as much money out from this pot. It is destined to happen and I’m fated to lose.

Back at the coffeehouse, I paused to rearrange my thought. While this explanation would be apt for a poker player, a simpler example is needed for one who is not experienced with poker

Fate in an illustrated term, is the way a leaf falls after the wind blows. There is no logical understanding or reasoning as to why it twirl the way it did in the wind or why this leaf takes longer to fall as compared to that. It is just fate at play, and its destiny is always the ground.

But can men manipulate fate? I would think we are constantly doing that with our advances in the field of science. And I think it would be fair to say that fate, is both in and out of our hands, at the same time. How we discern them, depends on the individual.

Back in the coffeehouse, I picked up the receipt underneath her cup of green tea latte with my fingers, raised my hand above my head and let it fall to the ground.

“This is fate” I said.

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