Defeating the Dealer was a huge weight off my mind. Once I cleared that last stage of the story mode, I was free to stop thinking of the game in terms of "success" and "failure" and instead was able to embrace it as a test of personal excellence. The trick was persistence. Much as I suspected, beating the Dealer was a matter of waiting until I got a lucky equipment draw and then not screwing up. Now that it's behind me, I am much more inclined to be cheerful about it.
Endless mode was . . . fun. Going on a run or two is a good way to spend a half hour, but doing too many in a row can be fatiguing, especially when you run into some tough encounters too early to properly deal with them. Still, it's like the distilled essence of an action-rpg. You go to a place, you fight monsters. It's a hard thing to screw up.
I probably should have been playing Endless mode all along. There's no reward, other than pride, for defeating the Dealer, and the stress of trying and failing was almost unbearable. Yet with a bit more breathing room, Hand of Fate became a breezy and almost casual experience. Sure, you die a lot, but what is the difference between life and death? There's no great cost to starting over, and thus nothing to mourn when it comes to an end.
I imagine there's nigh-limitless scope for exploration in your infinite lives, where each path is its own peculiar story, and if some of them (such as the story of how I ran into the Kraken as my first combat encounter and then promptly died) are not particularly interesting, they make up for in quantity what they lack in thematic cohesion.
If I didn't have this blog hanging over me, I would probably play Hand of Fate again. Not obsessively, but for a half-hour or so at a time. The art direction, the voice acting, and solid mechanics (minus the occasional random and inexplicable crash-to-desktop) make for an overall rewarding experience, and the unpredictability can stimulate my latent gambling urge, even if the unfairness of a bad run has me cursing the gods of fate.