I was a lawyer like Harmon Whitney
Or Kinsey Keene or Garrison Standard,
For I tried the rights of property,
Although by lamp-light, for thirty years,
In that poker room in the opera house.
And I say to you that Life’s a gambler
Head and shoulders above us all.
No mayor alive can close the house.
And if you lose, you can squeal as you will;
You’ll not get back your money.
He makes the percentage hard to conquer;
He stacks the cards to catch your weakness
And not to meet your strength.
And he gives you seventy years to play:
For if you cannot win in seventy
You cannot win at all.
So, if you lose, get out of the room —
Get out of the room when your time is up.
It’s mean to sit and fumble the cards,
And curse your losses, leaden-eyed,
Whining to try and try.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edgar Lee Masters's poem Tom Beatty


  1. Drew Brown says:

    The poem, actually, has little to nothing to do with God. The man telling the poem, Tom Beatty, is discussing life in general. He personifies life, saying, “… Life’s a gambler…” Tom Beatty is telling us how life places obstacles in our way; Life makes “the percentage hard to conquer”; Life “stacks the cards to catch our weakness”; all poker metaphors. Tom also comments that you have 70 years to play, meaning 70 years till you die, and if you can not “win”, at life, then you fail. It is as simple as that. Taking this poem and turning it into some context against God is missing the entire point all together. This poem comes from a play called Spoon River, which contains around 200 poems based on deceased people both real and fictional. It is always good to do your research before commenting on anything.

  2. Tom Beatty says:

    I think this a very sad outlook on life. The author does not seem to understand God. God does not stack the cards against us – we do that ourselves as we choose to ignore Him and go our own way (sin). In fact, God so loves you that He gave His Son, that if you would just trust in Him , He will forgive your sins and grant you the free gift of eternal life. I would love to discuss this with you more. Love, Pastor Tom Beatty, presmiss@gpcom.net.

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