If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not get tired by waiting,
And being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and built 'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And – which is more – You'll be a Man, my son!

"If" is a well-known, popular poem by Rudyard Kipling and one of my favourites that I know by heart. The theme is straight-forward and it is easy to understand what he is trying to get across. There are people who think they should live their lives by this poem's precepts. However, in the third verse is something that ought to make them sit up and think. Here is that tricky bit:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss;
We might wonder what is really being risked, and what is lost? Only the winnings, none of the capital! When a new gambler stakes his very first wager, he obviously has no winnings and so he must risk some of his capital. He, therefore, has far more at stake than Kipling's gambler who merely gambles away his winnings and leaves his capital intact. Some people lost their capital in the recent stock market crash but Kipling's gambler hasn't lost a cent. Why make a fuss about it?

But let us consider Kipling's gambler a little further; Assume he started with $1000 and after an hour is winning $10. He makes one heap of all his winnings, $10 that is, and risks it on one turn of pitch-and-toss. He loses the bet. He then restarts gambling just as he had done in the beginning, by having to risk some of his capital. But he never mentions that $10 loss. So what's the big deal?

For Kipling's gambler to bet his winnings means that he has kept his winnings separated from his original capital. This is pointless as he is no richer by keeping them separated, say, his capital in one pocket and his winnings in another. His bankroll consists of his original capital plus his winnings and his wager ought to only ever be a percentage of his current bankroll.

Consider two gamblers, one who has been winning and the other losing: Gambler (1) with a starting bankroll of $9,000 has won $1,000. Gambler (2) with a starting bankroll of $11,000 has lost $1,000. Each now has a bankroll of $10,000. Assume the odds for a particular wager justify betting 2% of one's bankroll, then each ought to wager $200, the bet size being based on their current bankrolls only and not influenced by the wins or losses of their previous betting history.

Of course, Kipling's gambler may not have acquired his winnings as described above; he may simply have won a lottery, say, $100,000. If he were to make one heap of all these winnings and lose it on one turn of pitch-and-toss I think he would be considered a fool and not an example for people to live by.

Someone is bound to say that Kipling didn't mean it the way I have described it. I agree completely. I'm sure he would oppose that viewpoint, but it is what he has written, not what he might have intended.

In choosing to use any metaphor, whatsoever, one is placed under an obligation to understand that particular subject in some detail. If not, one ought to choose some other subject as metaphor otherwise it may prove farcical. Kipling's gambling metaphor, or more specifically his betting system metaphor, of a reckless, all-or-nothing gambler, or, at best, an unknowledgeable one, was a bad choice.
(Advice to Kipling)
If now you understand what you've suggested
Would prove to be a betting-trap for fools,
Then choose some other thing, that you have tested,
That we may live our lives within its rules.
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