I am wondering - if it's at all possible to speculate on the motives of a fictional character - whether Yudhisthira's thirteen years in exile was as long as it was because he felt he needed that much time to transcend the limits of discrete dharma.
Sure, he made a mistake by gambling his wealth away, but Yudhisthira could have easily asserted that a game can't be taken seriously. I mean, really, which king has ever walked away as a pauper after a contest? Isn't that what Draupadi and Bhima tell him in the forest: that Kshatriyas believe in arrows, not words?
So why wasn't he being a Kshatriya?
In discrete dharma, words fall squarely on the truth. But, as we have seen, a good aim isn't the only thing we want from our actions. You can train yourself to be really good at throwing darts, but what happens when the target changes shape? Does the truth follow suit?
Discrete dharma is brittle.
I take Yudhisthira's commitment to dharma seriously; while Draupadi and Bhima see the failure of the dice game as an instrumental failure, Yudhisthira must have reflected upon the underlying failure of dharma. How could he have gone so wrong? He's always kept his word, but what to do when words fail?