If forming a government was a poker game, Mary Lou McDonald holds the aces. For Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, it's about playing a poor hand well. But this won't be enough, as it takes no account of the potential for bluffing, of which there will be plenty in days ahead.
Yet with the future of our country in the pot, everyone should think carefully about the stakes.
Mastering probability theory is beyond most of us, so predicting what form of government emerges is anyone's guess. The election has at least clarified responsibilities as much as expectations.
People feel they have not been listened to. Sinn Féin is in pole position as drivers of change.
So the matter turns on how much Fianna Fáil, and Fine Gael, are prepared to change to join them in coalition.
As Sinn Féin has won most first preferences, should it find common ground with left-leaning parties it will be in a commanding position going into talks.
Fianna Fáil may capture the greater number of seats, but by any analysis Mary Lou McDonald's party is the big winner in Election 2020, which poses an intriguing political conundrum.
Should a deal not be struck, Ms McDonald can leverage the threat of a return to the polls in which the party could field extra candidates, further routing the establishment parties.
The verdict of the people suggests the Government was irresponsible in its authority when it came to taking care of society as a whole. With the political topography redrawn, pragmatic compromise must be reached.
The test for a new government will be to use its authority and resources more inclusively without threatening jobs, livelihoods and investment.
The edges of extreme capitalism can be blunted without undermining future development, if done responsibly. It is an issue that is being grappled with globally. The resounding message of the election is people may exist in an economy, but they choose to live in a society. Clearly, in order to add value to others, you must value others. This is where clichés like campaigning in poetry and governing in prose come home to roost.
For there is nothing that dims the lights of enthusiasm like hard choices. When the initial euphoria has died down, the same difficult issues need managing. No serious politician can sidestep a tough decision when called on.
Election slogans bounce back in bitter mockery when empty.
Ms McDonald spoke of a desire to form a new government; her favoured option is one without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.
Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar hold a similar view on Sinn Féin. All positions must be tempered with reality.
None of the leaders has the luxury of individual preference. Party interests have to yield to those of the country and the greater good.
Surely the larger parties have no mind to risk a second scolding for not recognising problems before they become emergencies?