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7 Ways Thinking Like a Poker Player Will Boost Your Career

7 Ways Thinking Like a Poker Player Will Boost Your Career

Top poker players don’t usually wait for good things to come their way. They go out and make them happen. To be a winning player, you need to master skill, strategy and psychology. It’s not all about a well-timed gamble.

What does this have to do with you and your job? Research on successful players carried out by PokerStars shows that approaching the game in the right way is what separates poker stars from poker suckers. And these same traits can separate workplace high-flyers from, well, everyone else.

So start thinking like a top poker pro, and treat your career like a game – one that you intend to win.

1. Learn from your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes at work. Every day. Even you. But what are you going to do about it?

In poker, a player that doesn’t learn from their mistakes is a losing player.

“The best players are able to learn from their own mistakes,” says poker superstar Gus Hansen. “This is what makes them the best.”

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So follow Gus’s advice and identify where you’re dropping the ball. Don’t deny error. Embrace it. Every time you learn from a mistake and improve your skills, you make yourself a stronger candidate for promotion.

2. Stay disciplined

Losing focus and self-discipline at work is the easiest thing in the world. Everyone gets complacent. We all lapse into bad habits.

But poker player Freddie Gasperian says, “To master poker and make it profitable, you must first master patience and discipline, as lack of either is a sure disaster.”

Freddie’s advice is clear – don’t switch off, don’t let your concentration lapse. The margins between winning and losing can be fine in any game – and a lack of discipline can be disastrous.So stay sharp. Be disciplined about maintaining a routine that’s conducive to good work. Focus on forming good habits – get enough sleep, stay hydrated and maintain a calm, organized working environment.

3. Keep a level head

In poker, losing your temper is worse than losing your concentration. Lack of focus can make you sloppy, sure. But losing your cool can lead to spectacularly erratic, reckless and ruinous play. (Poker players call this going ‘on tilt’.)

Poker player William J. Florence sums it up nicely: “Never to lose your temper, either with those you are playing with or with the cards.” This is a sentiment echoed by many players. “The cardinal sin in poker,” says Katy Lederer, “is becoming emotionally involved.”

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So poker isn’t a game for hot heads. It takes cool thinking to reach the top of the game. Heed this advice. Stay level-headed about workplace frustrations and setbacks. Don’t go on tilt when things don’t run for you…

4. Believe in yourself – a lot

Question: do the best people always get promoted?

No. They do not.

Often people go farther in their careers because they have confidence. They simply believe they’re the best.

Self-styled poker brat Phil Hellmuth once said, “If there weren’t luck involved, I would win every time.”

We know this can’t be true. But if Phil Hellmuth knows if he says it with enough confidence, his opponents might believe it. He might believe it. And that plays in his favour. Obviously, you don’t want to turn into an arrogant douchebag at work. But in a lot of industries, confidence is king. And if you’re not naturally a big believer in yourself? Hey, fake it until you make it.

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5. Make winning decisions, not lucky decisions

Just as a broken clock tells the right time twice a day, decisions at work don’t always have to be good to, well, work.

Sometimes you get lucky at your job. That’s great. But hot streaks don’t last. To be successful in any workplace role, you should start thinking about success like a poker player. Poker players think about winning decisions, not just winning money. Making good decisions leads to something called positive expected value.

This basically means that by making objectively good decisions – rather than decisions that turn out good – you’ll be a winner in the long term. Start to think about the expected value of your decisions at work – are they positive or negative? Can you justify that you’re making a good call, or are you just hoping to get lucky?

6. Get inside your opponent’s head

Sometimes you’re not the only candidate up for a job or promotion. Sometimes, you have an opponent. If you’re in the same workspace, they might be a direct competitor you see every day.

So what can you do to maintain an edge over them? Gus Hansen says, “An essential element in playing winning poker is to force your opponents to make difficult decisions.”

Basically, he’s saying ‘don’t make it easy for your rivals’. Play hard. Play fair. But make them doubt themselves. Make them wonder about what you’re doing that works so well. Great poker players have a way of getting inside their opponent’s heads. This leads to hesitation, and second-guessing. If you can replicate a little of this psychological gameplay at work, you’ve won half the battle already.

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7. Decide when to gamble

Climbing the career ladder isn’t all about skill-mastering, self-confidence and cold-blooded concentration. Sometimes, you have to take a punt – and gamble on yourself. But everyone knows that bets don’t always come off. So what’s the difference between a good bet and a bad bet?

For poker players, betting is all based around odds.

“Odds calculation does not necessarily turn you into a winning poker player,” says A.D. Livingston. “But if you ignore the odds for too long, you are bound to be a loser.”

Odds are all around us at work, too. What’s the cost-to-benefit ration of going for a new role? Asking for a pay rise? When you calculate that the odds of a promotion-yielding move are favorable, be prepared to bet on it.

And bet big.

Featured photo credit: maorix via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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