Most professional poker players are earning a living from the game precisely to avoid working in a traditional corporate structure. Rather than punch a clock and work for somebody else, poker pros pay their own way while grinding the circuit, living an independent lifestyle while attempting to build a secure financial future.
Eventually, though, many seasoned players realize that the very same skills that propelled their career on the felt can also be transferred to the world of business and entrepreneurship. Modern poker pro players like Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, and Jason Somerville have built their own brands, leveraging good standing within the poker community to pursue projects which are both financially lucrative and personally fulfilling.
The 5 skills listed below not only help poker players overcome variance, they are in fact wholly transferrable in many aspects of life and can have a direct impact in helping you to grow and improve your business venture.
1. Reading People
For all the talk of having an inscrutable “poker face,” the game doesn’t really hinge on scanning your opponent for tells like the movies would suggest. But reading people is an essential poker skill, in the sense of sizing up their demeanor, tolerance for risk, and other intangible factors before proceeding accordingly.
Even more importantly, reading people in poker involves anticipating their next moves and carefully observing for patterns and trends. The same holds true for successful businesspeople. Whether you’re assessing the reliability of potential clients before signing a contract or monitoring market conditions before making an investment, knowing how to read both people and situations is pivotal.
2. Risk Assessment
Before putting their entire stack on the line with an all-in bet, poker players run through an array of mental calculations before deciding on the correct course of action. Knowing how to determine the exact odds that a needed card will come or how a particular hand rates against an opponent’s all serve to help poker unlock the game’s sheer complexity.
Even with the exact same cards in front of them, certain situations may warrant taking an additional risk, while other scenarios require more conservative play. Assessing the ratio of risk versus reward, which defines every single poker hand ever dealt, is a fundamental skill that separates successful players from break-even or losing status.
In business, every purchase order and expenditure represents a certain level of risk, and the best businesspeople are capable of continually managing that risk. Knowing when to cut your losses with an unproductive employee or how the pursuit of new revenue streams may impact current productivity levels are just some of the countless risk assessment decisions business owners must navigate on a daily basis.
3. Money Management
Whenever a poker player breaks through into the big leagues — winning gold bracelets at the World Series of Poker or playing in the nosebleed cash games running night and day in Las Vegas — they still have a long way to go. After all, money won can just as easily be lost, and seemingly every year a few well-known pros drop off the poker map due to poor money management.
The same economic traps that can ensnare poker players, such as taking on too many loans or spending more money than they’re bringing in, can also spell doom when running a business. The most enduring poker players, like the most iconic business brands, know when to walk away from a bad deal, how to save money for a rainy day, and the value of scaling back expenditures during a downswing.
4. Patience and Planning
Despite the nonstop onslaught of all-in pots and bad beats you might see on televised poker broadcasts, the game can actually be quite a grind for players. Thirteen-hour days are the norm, and the best players can find themselves doing nothing but folding for dozens of hands in a row.
For recreational players, the reality of toiling for hours on end in a tournament can lead to boredom, and even a phenomenon known as “punting” in which bored players who simply can’t stand the inaction any longer put their stack at risk with a marginal hand. Top pros, on the other hand, use their downtime to observe their opponent’s tendencies, planning future traps out in their head before springing into action at the most opportune time.
Every business owner has been forced to weather the slow season when the invoices dry up and the phone calls stop coming. Some resort to impulsiveness, striking out with ill-conceived product lines and advertising campaigns to try and right the ship, but successful businesspeople approach the situation like poker pros — by planning ahead in order to exploit future boom times most efficiently.
When it comes the time to choose their bet sizing, the best poker pros can work like a computer, adding up the previous bets to find the size of the pot, scanning their opponent’s stack to count their chips, and choosing the perfect bet for the situation. As a business owner in today’s society, you can profit by adopting the same meticulousness with your calculations, mitigating risks but being valiant enough to strike beneficial deals even when there’s no guarantee they’ll be successful.
Above all, consistency is key: a regular maintenance of solid business practices will stand you in good stead for those high-pressure moments where you are put on the spot. Your ability to make accurate decisions on the fly just may be the difference between closing a deal and losing an account.
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