Bacteriophage lambda infection of Escherichia coli can result in distinct cell fate outcomes. For example, some cells lyse whereas others survive as lysogens. A quantitative biophysical model of lambda infection supports the hypothesis that spontaneous differences in the timing of individual molecular events during lambda infection leads to variation in the selection of cell fates. Building from this analysis, the lambda lysis-lysogeny decision now serves as a paradigm for how intrinsic molecular noise can influence cellular behavior, drive developmental processes, and produce population heterogeneity. Here, we report experimental evidence that warrants reconsidering this framework. By using cell fractioning, plating, and single-cell fluorescent microscopy, we find that physical differences among cells present before infection bias lambda developmental outcomes. Specifically, variation in cell volume at the time of infection can be used to help predict cell fate: a approximately 2-fold increase in cell volume results in a 4- to 5-fold decrease in the probability of lysogeny. Other cell fate decisions now thought to be stochastic might also be determined by pre-existing variation.