Reflections

The Truth About the Lie

The bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe.

At least, that’s what they say…

I realized a while ago that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Back in 2015, I had managed to get a part in a stage production of The Odd Couple. The play centered around two incredibly mismatched best friends who unexpectedly find themselves as roommates. Secondary to these two characters were the two sisters who lived in the same building and the poker gang (which I found myself part of).

Most theatre rehearsals I’ve ever been a part of have always started with a warmup of sorts. In most cases, those warmups will contain a range of vocal exercises, spurts of physical activity and flexibility, and rehearsing lines. The director for this play, however, took a slightly different approach. He decided one day that our warmup would be to play poker for 30 minutes before every rehearsal. Why? Because he wanted us to get in the habit of playing cards naturally. He actually wanted us to be playing a poker game, unscripted, while we were doing our scripted scenes.

“Fair enough,” I thought. I was more than happy to play along. I mean, how hard could it be? I already knew the rules, and I’ve played a few games with friends. This should be easy.

It wasn’t.

I didn’t take many risks. I tried to play it smart. I folded when I thought it was prudent and pushed when I had something I thought would work. I could understand being beaten when all you have is a pair of 2s. I could even understand losing with three of a kind, or even a straight. But struggling with a full house? It didn’t take long for me to figure out that I was doing something wrong. But what?!

I lost… I lost a lot. Even when I won. My pile of chips did more shrinking than it did growing.

Now, I realize that poker has a lot to do with luck, but there’s also a considerable amount of skill involved. There’s strategy, observation, assessing the odds, and being able to read body language. These are all things I could do decently well. So why was I sucking so bad?!

In one of the final hands during warmup, I had managed to get a four of a kind. I don’t know how, but I did. I tried playing it casual. Everybody else seemed like they were in and had something worth holding on to in their hands. I figured this was my moment! My chance to clean house! So, my turn came, I raised…..and everybody folded.

My jaw dropped.

I had just figured it out. The reason why I couldn’t get ahead in a game of liars. The explanation behind my inability to succeed at this table of deceit!

I SUCK AT LYING.

It seems like a weird eureka moment to be complaining about, but it’s true. Everything I did up until this point… the strategy, the observation, the odds assessments, the body language…oh, the body language! All of it was meaningless. The truth was that I was far too honest – too transparent. I had tells, and I had patterns. And when it came time to bluff, they saw right through me. I went from 0 to 100 in 2.5 seconds and crashed.

What an odd problem for an actor to have…

But imagine how much work people have to put into lying in their day-to-day. When it really matters. Every day, fabricating stories, pointing blame, and manipulating people. I couldn’t keep a lie for one hand. How do people live their lives while weaving webs built of them? It must be exhausting trying to keep it all straight. And for all the lies you tell, there’s always someone out there who will undoubtedly manage to figure you out. Is it worth the risk?

The bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe. Ha! What a load of crap.

Maybe it’s better to stick with the truth rather than get stuck in your own lie.

At least that way you’re bound to still win a few hands.

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