The game of safety poker

February 1, 2003 By    

My fascination with card playing began as I watched the TV show Maverick. I learned the skills of poker always included banter and usually ended with the phrase “My old Pappy used to say . . .” just as Maverick would gather up the pot.

Later as a kid, we played quite a bit of 10-cent poker while waiting around for the next sports event. Allowances were dwindled, paper route money was squandered and small fortunes were exchanged. Of course, if my folks asked I was always “up.”

I think it was during my college years, as I earned my way through school, that I realized I could not afford to gamble. When it comes to gambling my hard earned money, the risk is just too great.

Later I learned the curse of gambling and the damage it can cause. There were client employees who embezzled to support a pulltab habit. There were old college friends who bet heavily on sporting events. There was an attorney who lost his practice and went to jail for stealing client funds after binges in Vegas.

They all gambled and lost big.

Gambling or risk taking?
When it comes to safely operating and protecting your business, it is imperative that you understand the difference between risk taking and gambling.

Risk is defined as exposure to possible loss or injury, danger, peril. Synonyms include; hazard, jeopardy, vulnerability and contingency. Antonyms include; protection, safety, immunity and defense.

Gambling is playing a game of chance for money or property, a risky undertaking. Synonyms include; hazard, risk, venture and chance.

When it comes to risk taking and safety with your business, always understand the stakes.

I remember serving on an executive committee and one evening we played poker during a retreat. One of the women asked to join and she was told to ante up.

At this point she pulled out a green see through visor to shield the lights and said, “I don’t ante until I know the game and the stakes.”

As I recall, she cleaned our clocks.

A lottery ticket purchase is usually considered small stakes. Low risk, high reward.

A multi million-dollar lawsuit is considered high stakes. High risk, no reward.

When you understand the risk, hazards and vulnerability you can strategize protection, safety, immunity and a comprehensive defense.

The strategy in poker involves understanding the rules of the game, understanding objectives to be accomplished to win and understanding the odds. After that comes the more refined skills such as card counting, bluffing and reading other players tip signs.

The strategy in propane safety involves understanding the exposures and stakeholders, the criteria and standards to which you will be held, the cost of claims and keeping your company in a defendable position that will protect the bottom line. After that comes the more refined skills of developing strong leadership, learning how to market safety and understanding recent plaintiff allegations.

Let’s play
We can’t play with just the two of us, so let’s invite one of your customers, a plaintiff attorney and an insurance company executive to join us. Now we have a full table.

This particular game of Safety Poker is called “Are you Defendable?”

Five-card stud, no draw, nothing wild and evidence or better to open.

Your customer opens the bidding at their average propane delivery billing,

The plaintiff attorney sees the bet and raises $1 million ­ your
insurance policy limit.

Your insurance company guy folds. As a backer, so to speak, he is counting
on your cards.

I fold as well. You offer me half your winnings to be your coach.

Your safety cards are good, but they’re not great. I explain the odds.

Your customer will obviously fold. He now seems to be sitting closer
to the plaintiff attorney.

Do you fold, bet your policy limits or raise the ante with the keys
to your company?

Playing your hand
When forming a defense strategy in propane litigation, a good attorney will want to see your safety cards. Eventually, so will the plaintiff attorney. At that time, as the saying goes, you’ll either “read em and reap” the benefits of solid safety practices or “read em and weep” over questionable safety efforts.

Isn’t it time to quit gambling with the future profitability of your propane company?

As my old Pappy used to say, “Next month, usual place and time?”

Until then, be safe.

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