The Business Lessons To Be Learned From Poker

When it comes to being a success in business, we often tend to look to industry leaders to see what they did to reach the top.

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson; all have risen to the top of their chosen industries by being innovative and creative. They’re great role models, but not everyone can find a niche and roll with it. Would Jeff Bezos have had the same success if he’d run a small hardware store in Utah rather than Amazon? Could Elon Musk’s approach have benefited a used car sales business in Iowa?

The point is that the business leaders have sometimes innovated and ridden a wave, but they haven’t started a business from the bottom with immediate competition. They stand alone in their industry courtesy as much of the time and opportunity than anything, but the average business isn’t going to be groundbreaking and new; it’s going to be in a tried and tested industry. For that, you may need lessons from elsewhere.

One area that can teach us a lot about business is poker. It sounds surprising, but a lot of skill within poker acts as a metaphor and learning process for business. It’s why some top players, like Vanessa Selbst, transfer from poker to business with plenty of success. She didn’t reinvent the wheel after poker; she moved into the competitive investment market and was hugely successful. Why? She applied these poker traits, among others, to her business approach.

Calculate Chances of Success

Poker might seem like a game of luck, but the top professionals leave nothing to chance. They have a method of determining if a hand is worth pursuing by calculating poker pot odds. This method assesses the chance of winning your hand and playing accordingly. In business, you should always do the same; work not on gut feelings but on numbers and facts. If a business venture feels like it has a chance of success, do the math, and check the numbers. Stories of succeeding on gut feeling are all well and good, but nine times out of ten, the numbers adding up seal the deal.

Have a Strategy

A poker player will always have a strategy. It might be to bully certain players, start low, and build up to bigger pots no matter what the hand. It might be that a player is ready to take the big opportunities but has vowed not to bluff until their chip stack backs up their bravado. Having a plan is a great way to be successful; the same goes for business. We’ve already discussed why you should build a business strategy for your venture, and we can see a real-world example of that in poker. You can even have a plan for the unexpected; that way, whatever cards are dealt or business opportunities come your way, you’ll be ready.

Never Over Commit

Anyone who has played poker knows it is easy to overcommit. You’re dealt pocket jacks, and there’s another in the middle; three jacks will win you the hand, right? If you throw all your chips into a hand when there are just three community cards down, you’ve overcommitted without knowing the true state of play. What if two fives come out, and another player has the other two? You’re beaten, and you’re out of the game. The same applies to business; if you’re dealing with finite cash reserves, don’t pour it all into a venture you think looks good. You can take a risk, sure, but mitigate that investment risk by holding cash back and preparing for a scenario in which you might fail.

Know Your Competition

Top poker players study their opponents; they understand their tells and tactics. Even at a base level, some online poker players have HUDs (head’s up display) which deliver information on their opponents, even if they’ve never met. It might be their recent hands, playing patterns, or any information that gives you the upper hand. In business, you should always do the same. If you’re the hardware store in Utah, then occasionally pop into the other hardware store in town and see what they’re doing. Understanding your opponent lets you stay in the game, whether at a poker table or in business.