Ten years ago, I read a book that compared business with poker. It had a very catchy title: MBA Poker: Winning in Business No Matter What Cards You’re Dealt, with a simple premise. There are many business lessons to learn from good poker players.
At the time, I did not play poker, nor had I gone to MBA yet. Neither of those things prevented me from enjoying the book. It was well-written and a fascinating read. Since it is currently out of print, I wanted to share a few things from the book that you hear pretty consistently out of strategy and management books.
- Know your opponent. Don’t assume that they think like you, often they don’t.
“Bad players play their own hand. Good ones play their opponent’s hand first, then worry about their own cards.”
- In negotiation (and poker), remember three rules:
- Don’t give up something without getting something in return
- Keep a poker face (e.g. Boxers smile after being hit – to show their fortitude)
- Let your opponent feel like they are winning (so they can save face and do business with you again. Don’t make it a win-lose, fin a win-win)
- The answer is IT DEPENDS. The answer is rarely black/white. Advanced poker players think on many different levels; they don’t over-simplify the problem.
- Don’t gamble. Do your homework and know the odds. Take calculated risks. If possible, be the house (not the player) by creating the system that other people use and pay for.
“Information has value. Just as you wouldn’t give away cash, don’t give away ideas – unless they contribute to you or your organization.”
- Give yourself space. Don’t put yourself in the situation where you HAVE TO win. The urgency of the situation puts you at a disadvantage.
- Poker is a zero-sum game, but life and business are not.
- Be tight and aggressive. For poker, play only a few hands, but play them hard. For business, focus your investments. In poker, they call it “pump it or dump it“
“[In poker]. . . you typically should either raise the pot (pump it) and take control of the hand or fold (dump it) and get out entirely. Just calling is an option, but rarely the right one.”
- These last two points sound like something out of The Prince by Machiavelli or The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene:
“It’s who you know and who knows you. Find out the people of influence that you need to know, and earn the right to meet them.”
“. . .the minute you achieve success, people will be coming after you. The best way to guard against it is to keep your success to yourself”