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How Playing Poker Can Make You Smarter in Business

“Trust Everyone, But Cut the Cards.”

If you are not much of a poker player let me break down this phrase for you. This poker adage says there is nothing wrong with trusting others. However, you got to make sure you protect yourself by cutting the cards. And if you think about it, it works just the same way in the business world: nothing wrong with being trusting, but we got to make sure we are protected by appropriate contracts and deal terms.

The topic of poker making people smarter, better in business has been around for some time now. As Geoff Woo, co-founder of Nootrobox once said, "Poker is a perfect microcosm for business. It's a great way to train your assessment and decision making with incomplete information."

And that’s not all. Poker is not only for man. Suneera Madhani, the founder of Orlando-based startup FattMerchant, a provider of flat-rate credit card processing, said that poker has helped her manage being the only woman in the room as a fintech startup CEO. Her precise words were, "I've never sat at a table and thought gender was a reason I couldn't play." Moreover, she applies the same philosophy to her business every day.

Now, we know for sure that playing poker makes one smarter in business. But the real question is “how?”

Here are 7 proven ways how poker can make you better in the business world.


#1. Calculating your risks

If you are a businessman then you are constantly measuring your potential gain and loss as well as deciding when to take risks. Well, that is also what you do while playing poker. With that in mind, we can say, that both business and poker are associated with quick math, instinct and assessment.

Moreover, going all-in when you have only two pairs might be very exciting since it represents the ultimate risk: losing everything. But in real life, or let’s say, in business and in poker, you only take risks when the odds are deeply in your favor. So learning to evaluate risk is a skill that takes work. Furthermore, with practice and determination looking for clues and signs will become a reflex for you: just like turning the light on when entering a room.


#2. Learning endurance, dealing with pressure

Picture a poker tournament: it starts out with huge groups of players. After a couple of days, players start to drop out until eventually, one player wins the game. You can imagine how being in a poker tournament will teach one endurance and dealing with pressure.

Now imagine that the poker tournament is the business world and the poker players and startups. They all start bright and shining, founded by hopeful entrepreneurs. However, not all of them make it to the big business world. And the ones that do work day and night with the whispering voice in the back of their ears, “ you might lose it all.”


#3. Skill vs. Gambling

Many confuse poker with gambling, which is true only in the most general sense. Think of all the Vegas games: they are a coin flip at best. And not much of a skill is needed to guess roulette. In fact, no skill is needed: those games are based on chance.

Poker, on the other hand, is not a game of chance. To be more precise, one person out of thousands will win a poker tournament. And the same odds relate to turning a startup into a successful business: you can count on your fingers how many startups out of a 1,000 will survive.


#4. You are always selling

You are a poker player, right? Then you are constantly looking to sell. And at that time these are the evaluations going on in your mind: what other players want, what others are prepared to hear, etc. I will tell you with not much of a surprise that business requires the same brain exercise. When you are negotiating with your partner over 5,000 bulks of candles being transferred overseas for the best price possible you both are playing the same game.



#5. Becoming a better boss: reading people

It is no secret that poker can make you a better boss. And what I mean by saying a better boss I mean a boss that inspires different kinds of people to work united as a team towards one big vision. Truth be told, it sounds easier than it really is. The reason behind is that reality is complicated: business communicates is a skill that does not usually come naturally but rather needs to be learned. Moreover, it also involves a huge amount of psychology.

While around the poker table you have the opportunity of adapting very quickly to the other people at the table. Playing poker also helps you learn reading people by tracking their behaviors and noticing patterns. And with that in mind, you can predict how others are going to react in different situations.

If you didn’t know by now, this skill set is going to help you out a lot in the office. One thing that is crucial in the business world is knowing when your employees are sincere or downright dishonest with you. So imagine if you could read emotions: that would increase your chances of making the better deals, right? And what better place to learn reading people and catch their tells than poker?


#6. Tasting the value of failure

Remember when you were about 6 years old, you played basketball in the backyard with your other 6-year-old friends? Remember when your team lost? And then your father told you that losing is not a bad thing: losing teaches you to learn. Well, your father was right. In fact, people who dismiss the value of failure are the ones that don’t last long as entrepreneurs.

If you really want to move forward you need to taste the value of failure. Look at failure as an opportunity to learn. And when you toughen up, look failure in the eyes and ask yourselves about what went wrong, you will finally succeed. I bet your father learned this while playing poker.


#7. Do you have a Poker Face?

Let’s be honest: we all have our own tells. And sometimes, we need to hide those tells. For example, in poker, we pretend our hand is good when it is bad. And we do that by putting on a poker face. The latter means hiding our emotions behind a neutral mask.

The same is with business. We are often required to be discreet about who our business partners are. We also keep secrets of our trade deals until after they are publicized. And what do we desperately need at times like this? You got it: you need to maintain a poker face.

By the time you take a look at your cards, think of inexplicable ways of hiding your excitement, they got you. And just like that, some things need to stay under the shade until they are ready to be revealed. Poker, the game of all the games, teaches you how to be a better entrepreneur, how to deal with people, and so much more. So next time when you are fishing and a float of thoughts hit your mind, think about playing more poker.

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Posted by Kristina P. on Oct 31, 2017 5:24:37 PM