5 Key Ways Poker Can Make You a Better Business Owner

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“Playing poker and running a business, the two have a lot more in common than you think.” Chances are you’ve heard that statement more than a few times during your career and haven’t given it a second thought. After all, running a business is a full-time occupation, so who has the time to combine the daily grind with a new hobby?  

Well, those players who are determined to make it as a pro for a start. Developing a poker career is very much like developing a business. Just look at pros like Antonio Esfandiari, Vanessa Selbst, or Phil Ivey. They haven’t gotten to the top of their field based on inherent poker talent alone. They’ve had to go through the same stages of brand development and promotion as any business owner.  

Far from simply being a game that is based entirely on chance, poker is multi-layered and complex, and playing it can help develop core skills that are crucial to effective business management.  

In any given game, a poker player needs to be able to memorise the rules and guidelines that govern play, make carefully calculated decisions based on very little input, and manage their own emotional state. Just like a business owner, a poker player will be called upon to take calculated risks and mitigate any losses as a consequence of the decisions they make. 

While there are business owners out there who take playing poker as seriously as running their wildly successful companies, simply enjoying the game as an occasional hobby can, in the long run, make you a better business owner. Here’s how:  

It helps you read people 

Don’t be fooled by the poker games you see portrayed in the movies. Very few players actually “scan” their opponents for tells during a game. Instead, savvy players read the whole person, from their demeanor at the table to their propensity for taking risks. All of these things can add up to patterns, something that players need to look for in their opponents to anticipate their next moves.  

In business, this feeds into being able to assess the reliability of potential employees or clients. Cultivating the ability to recognise patterns and trends is also useful when it comes to monitoring markets, especially if you’re about to make an investment or launch a new product.  

It switches your focus from results to process 

Every poker player worth their salt knows that sometimes, no matter how slick their moves are, they end up losing. A player can play the perfect hand, but still not emerge as the winner at the end of the game. But if they focused purely on the loss their progress would stall. Instead, their focus needs to be on the processes they went through during the game. If they play with solid fundamentals, it’s simply a case of getting back to the table to try again.  

The same is true of a business situation, where you’ve done everything right but haven’t been able to hit your goals. If, on the other hand, you know you made the right decisions throughout, you’ve got a formula that you can apply to the next deal or purchase you’re looking to make. 

The same is true of a business situation, where you’ve done everything right but haven’t been able to hit your goals. If, on the other hand, you know you made the right decisions throughout, you’ve got a formula that you can apply to the next deal or purchase you’re looking to make. 

It’ll teach you risk assessment and management 

At some point during a game, a poker player will make the choice to go all-in and put their full-stack on the line. This is not a decision they make lightly, however. Before going all-in, players need to run through a series of calculations that will help them decide upon the best course of action – determining the odds for each potential outcome. Each of these outcomes will have a varying degree of risk involved, and in order to assess these risks, players have to develop a solid risk vs. reward ratio.  

From purchasing stock to hiring new staff members, taking on acquisitions, or making investments, the same can be said of business decisions too. Applying risk vs. reward to the daily decisions and actions you need to take as a business owner can have a transformative effect on the success of your company.

risk assessment

It teaches solid financial management 

One thing that can really make or break a poker player is how effectively they manage their money. Bankroll management involves keeping a steady stream of cash to support entry to new games, and the cardinal rule of effective bankroll management is to not spend more than you bring in.  

In business, this approach can be seen as keeping cash reserves for the inevitable ‘rainy day’. When a business becomes profitable, it can be tempting to follow the “spend more to generate more” mindset, but while there will be some occasions that call for a considerable investment, if you chase every opportunity with that mindset, you’ll drain your resources quicker than you realise. 

It makes you disciplined 

If there’s one key ingredient that makes both playing poker and running a business a success, it’s self-discipline. It’s only through thorough self-discipline that an aspiring poker player will work their way towards their World Series of Poker-winning aspirations, or a business owner will hit and fulfill every goal and KPI on their business plan.  

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