Poker lessons in business

 

Back in the days before children, when I had time and my sanity, I played a fair amount of poker.

I was pretty good as well. I read a lot of books and learned a lot.

A lot of the successful things I learned, I have applied not just to business but in my life as well. Many of which have helped build me to the person I am today.

Whilst understanding poker is helpful in order to know what I’m banging on about, it’s not essential. I’ll try to make it as simple to understand as possible.

 

Learning from failure.

It’s a pretty common human trait to blame everyone else for their failures. It has an even more frequent place in poker, they’ll call you a fish (a bad player) because you got involved with a weak hand against their strong hand. They decide to get cute and play like they’re weak, not raising the stakes for other players to get involved. They’ll complain about their luck and the other players who they let in cheaply and not themselves.

There is an element of luck in poker and sometimes you have to take that on the chin. However, it’s about being honest with yourself, re-evaluating your decisions and thinking what could be done differently.

This is the case in business. Some people will blame everyone else because their business is failing. They don’t look at themselves, their decisions and what they could do differently to become successful. People fail because they refuse to see the impact of their own choices.

When something goes wrong, I always like to know why. That way, it won’t happen again. Failure is life’s great teacher, if you want to learn!

Being different.

This is a big one for me. At the poker table, if everyone else is going crazy, throwing money about and bluffing, it makes sense to sit there and wait for good cards and get involved with everyone else who are most likely, playing with junk. Sure, luck might come into play and you may lose any given hand. However, by playing good hands against junk, you’ll win more than you lose and with the high amount of chips being thrown about, long term, you’ll be quids in.

Alternatively, if everyone is sitting there waiting for good cards, you can throw your money about, taking lots of small pots uncontested. If you meet any resistance, you can be sure they’ve hit a good hand and can back down, however, if you’re betting the right amounts, this will still bring you a slow but sure profit.

This is something I apply to my marketing. Whilst others are fighting in the battleground for the same piece of pie by doing the exact same thing that all the others are doing, it stands to reason that they’ll take an equal amount of the pie and continuously tread water to keep that equal share.

Most of my posts are jokes, things that generally go against the grain and may potentially annoy people. It’s the same theory as poker, sure I won’t win them all but there’s several people that like my noise. I appeal to them and entertain them. That’s a piece of pie that’s uncontested and that is MY pie so don’t touch!

Dealing with change.

The poker tables can change constantly. In a tournament of 1000’s of people, you’ll move tables many times as players getting knocked out. You have to adapt, learn your new surroundings and get with it pretty quickly. On the last table you were sitting at, everyone may have been playing very conservatively and waiting for good hands, meaning you’ve been playing aggressively and winning lots of pots uncontested because the players were afraid to get involved. The next table might be completely different and throwing your money about could see you burn quite quickly.

We see this frequently in business. Especially with today’s fast moving technology. The rise of the internet has see many big companies go bust. Many of them failed to get with the new age quick enough. They carried on using the same plans they’d always had until it was too late. If you don’t reassess the environment you’re in, if you don’t embrace new technology, if you don’t get with the times, chances are, you’ll eventually find yourself at the point of no return.

Making calculated risks.

People will often say that poker is a game of luck and to some degree, it is. However, it’s mostly about making your own luck.

It’s about knowing the risks. This is going to cost X, my chances of winning are X% and if I win, I’ll win X. To put it into context, if someone said to you “bet £10 on the flip of a coin and if you guess correctly, I’ll give you £100” you’d take that bet. Sure you might lose but it’s a long term winning call, you’re being given 9 to 1 odds on something that has an evens outcome.

It’s no different in business. Lots of people will throw jelly at the walls and hope that some of it sticks.

They’ll go networking, costing, let’s say, £500 a year. They then complain, that it doesn’t work for them.

They haven’t prepared their pitch, they stand in the corner, they don’t tell anyone about the benefits of their business, they don’t know their ideal client etc etc. Their marketing efforts are poorly planned, they haven’t made their odds better of success.

When I went networking, I used to calculate my odds. “To make this worthwhile, I need to sell X amount each time to X amount of people, so who will they be?”

Did it ever work out as planned each time? Not exactly. However, over the course of a year, the law of averages meant it did. It’s the same of the coin flip, do it once, you might lose, do it 50 times and with odds of 9 to 1 on an evens outcome and you’ll win.

Asking questions.

It’s quite an obvious thing to say but people fail to do it.

In poker, when I have a hand I want to play, good or bad, I’m going to put some money into the pot. I’m going to ask everyone a question: “Do you have a good hand?”

Those that decide to get cute by pretending they’re weak and not putting any money in the pot when they’ve got a good hand, won’t be very clear where they stand in the next round of betting.

The same goes in business, potential clients and even current clients need to be asked the right questions so you can get the correct information in order to do the best you can for them. Shoehorning people into a service just because they’ve expressed an interest is a recipe for disaster, it’ll impact your reputation and in the end, your money.

 

I wouldn’t say that poker is like riding a bike, there’s a fair amount I’m sure I haven’t recalled but there are some lessons that have been so valuable, I haven’t been able to forget them.

If you have an interest in poker, it’s well worth really getting to know the game. It can help you in life and you might even become good enough to win lots of money!