As with most things in life, the more you do it, the better you get. Poker has evolved from a recreational pursuit into a televised, competitive spectator sport in which millions of people participate and in which professional players earn vast sums of money. As with business there’s a huge amount of theory that you can use to inform your understanding, but again, as with business, some things can only be learned through experience. There are numerous business lessons you can learn on the felt but here are our top three.
Brushing Up On Your Numbers
Poker is a mathematical game; you should be able to calculate the odds of either you or your opponent winning the hand in any given situation. Business is the same, you need to calculate odds and expectations, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Poker is notoriously and intriguingly, a game of incomplete information, so is business. You can never be entirely sure what the opposition is up to, how social trends may develop or what unforeseen global events may occur, but you can use numbers to weigh up the odds, just as the successful poker player must and by doing so you can limit the possibility of financially damaging setbacks. Learn to calculate risk.
Testing Your Strategies
The successful poker player, like any successful professional, never stops learning. That does not mean that every new technique or strategy is immediately deployed in a game. The consequences of that kind of behaviour could be very costly. Often professional players will drop down a level or two in order to try out new strategies. This is not always so easy to do in business, but the notion of testing new strategies under controlled conditions before rolling them out to the whole organization is an important one.
Controlling Your Emotions
Controlling your emotion plays a key part in poker. During a single game, players can experience conflicting feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, elation and excitement. Professionals have a much greater control of their emotions and consequently play a more logical and therefore more successful game. Sports psychologists characterise emotional behaviour on a continuum ranging from ‘the seether’, who is barely able to control their anger and frustration, to ‘the Zen master’ who is unaffected by setback or success but continues to operate in the most effective way, unswayed by emotion. Successful business leaders need this kind of endurance, the ability to remain optimistic in the face of failure. In poker, decisions must be made without thought of the financial investment made in previous hands. If it’s time to fold, it’s time to fold. Not losing chips by folding quickly is as good as winning, even though it may not feel like it. Recognising when to cut business loses is a crucial decision, which should not be clouded by emotion.