In the game of Poker known as Texas Hold 'Em, one of the biggest skills of all is hand selection.

For those of you who are not familiar with this style of poker: in Texas Hold 'Em, you get two cards, face-down. These are known as your hole cards.

Then everybody gets dealt 5 cards, face-up. These are the community cards or the 'board'. Whoever makes the best five-card hand with his two hole cards plus the community cards wins.

Now the skill of hand selection is knowing which hole cards to play with and which ones to fold (or lay down). Hand selection may very well be THE skill that separates the experts from the novices.

For example, if you're holding Ace-King as your hole cards, you're in pretty good shape. You know you can play that hand and do reasonably well.

But then sometimes you have Queen-Jack. Or a pair of nines. And then the decision to play or not play that hand becomes trickier.

Then again, sometimes you have 2-5. Or 5-7. These are also easy decisions to make -- lay them down.

Now, sometimes what can happen is that for whatever reason, you actually end up playing a weak hand like 2-5 or 6-3. And then cards come on the board that give you a decent hand.

Next thing you know, you're betting actual money on what used to be a total garbage hand, thinking, "Hey, now I've got something."

Then, what tends to happen is that as further community cards are dealt, a king or ace turns up, giving somebody else at the table a hand, too. Except that their hand is a lot stronger than yours now.

Suddenly what seemed like an eminently playable hand turns into garbage, and ends up costing you lots of money. You curse the poker gods for the crappy luck they dealt you. I mean, you were so in! You had a great hand!

Except that you forgot one thing: you had a garbage hand to begin with. And at the end, you still had a garbage hand. This should not surprise you terribly now, should it.

In life and in dating, we are often walking into holes of our own digging, then cursing the world for giving us 'bad luck.' Except that what we're calling bad luck is more likely just poor judgment in retrospect. So if you get out of your own way and make good judgments to begin with, you avoid a lot of heartache down the road.

So let's apply this to your dating life. Let's say you're at a bar and you meet a girl. You hit it off, you dance, you make out. You make a date for later that week. She cancels at the last minute, and you don't hear from her again in spite of repeated efforts. You get frustrated and disillusioned.

Sound familiar? This is very much like the situation with the bad starting hand that ended up badly, in spite of a glimmer of hope in between. Dude -- you should have never put yourself in that situation to begin with.

Or: you meet a really nice girl at a party. She's a doctor. In residency training. You guys hit it off. She has a few days off before her heavy schedule resumes, so you guys hang out. Several days in a row. Sparks fly; everything is great. So far, so good.

Then she starts her 90hr weeks again, with lots of night shifts that make it physically impossible to get together. After a month or two, you're frustrated and lonely because you never get to see your woman.

The fact is that you had the information about her job and schedule to begin with. So none of this should come as a surprise: this is the hole you dug yourself.

So here are some ways in which guys I know (including myself) have committed the sin of 'bad hand selection' and gotten in their own way. The end result is usually frustration, disillusionment and loneliness -- that part you can figure out on your own:

-- You ignore her busy schedule, thinking "she'll make time for me."

-- You ignore the fact that she has a highly social job -- cocktail waitress, promotions girl, public relations -- and meets lots and lots of guys besides you on a daily basis

-- You neglect that fact that she has lots of instability in her life: drugs, alcohol, difficult family situation

-- You go into what you know will be a long-distance relationship

-- You conveniently ignore the fact that she's already got a boyfriend, is married or otherwise living with someone (it's happened)

-- You overlook her past patterns in relationships -- eg lots of bad breakups, divorce -- thinking, "Well, I'm not like those guys."

-- You overlook her overtly flirtatious behavior, thinking "She's really just a nice girl when you really get to know her."

-- You chase her in any way, subtle or explicit.

-- You repeatedly ask her out. She says yes each time. You take her to several fancy shows and nice dinners before she even has a chance to reciprocate. You basically break all the Tao of Dating rules, saying to yourself, "It's okay because we're really into one another."

Obviously, I could go on with this list for a long, long time, but you get the point by now. Every time you fool yourself into thinking, "Well, I'm starting with a crappy hand but you never know when luck will be on my side and I'll win huge," you are setting yourself up for loss and pain.

That's why I always talk about stacking the deck in your favor. Of going for the high-percentage shot. Of leaving that marginal hand in the muck -- throw that 2-5 off-suit away, my friend. Play only with strong hands. And even then, only with the strongest of strong hands.

Because in the end, the ultimate limited resource is life itself. You only have so much time and energy. So spend it wisely, on projects and people that have the highest likelihood of bringing you fulfillment. I'm a big fan of risk. And sure, there's a time to gamble -- it's what makes life interesting and exciting, right? But the experienced gambler knows when to take his chances, and is always taking the calculated risk, not the wild shot in the dark. Calculated risk.

Of course, some of you are going to write in and say, "But Dr Alex, I had a long-distance relationship, and after 3 years we got together and married and we've got 2.3 kids now and everything's great."

And that's what I would call 'the exception that proves the rule.' Because, yes, there will be exceptions to all the scenarios above (and most of them will come from movies, because it's often these exceptions that make for an interesting story -- losing when you're supposed to lose and winning when you're supposed to win is not a thrilling tale to tell).

But the vast majority of you, those for whom these scenarios turned out poorly 98% of the time, will *not* write in. It's just simple statistics.

So I spent a lot of this article on what not to do. However, The Tao of Dating philosophy is about focusing on what you want and what action to *take*. So here's what you want to be doing:

1) Due diligence: Don't put yourself in an unfavorable position in the first place. Avoid those situations entirely if you can help it. Simply refuse to play with borderline hands under any circumstance. This is called discipline and maturity.

2) Suspend expectation. You're welcome to throw yourself into iffy situations as long as you have no expectations whatsoever regarding the outcome. In other words, you can play as crappy a hand as you want for fun -- as long as you don't mind losing lots of money (there are lots of players like that out there, and may the poker gods put them all at my table, amen). Most people don’t operate this way, however, and you probably don't either.

3) Remember that the rules *always* apply. Never, ever throw out your standards and your proven strategies because "this one's special." Dude -- they're ALL special when you end up liking them. To suspend the rules as soon as you meet a girl who's "different" is to throw away all the tools that make you effective -- right at the moment when you need them most.

The power is within you,
Dr Alex

PS: Can you think of two friends who would also find this article useful? Then send it to them! They'll thank you for it.

PPS: I'm interested in your questions and comments regarding dating, persuasion and networking, so please do send them to me. I can be reached at

Author's Bio: 

And if you enjoyed this article, I have many more useful tips for you like this one. To get a free copy of the special report 'The 9 Top-Secret Goldmines for Meeting Quality Women', visit To learn more about the scientific basis for success in dating and business, visit

Dr Alex Benzer is the author of 'The Tao of Dating: The Thinking Man's Guide to Success with Women', the companion booklets 'The Tao of Sexual Mastery' and 'The Tao of Social Networking', and the audio course 'The Tao of Persuasion'. He has an MD from UC San Diego Medical School, an MPhil from Cambridge University and an AB from Harvard College. He is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and NLP Master Practitioner based in Los Angeles. For a free download of one of his hypnosis audios, visit