Skip to main content

Pull up a chair, a beer, a towering stack of chips (Pringles), money you’re willing to lose and get set for one of life’s most joyous pastimes. I know some people call poker a game (my wife for one), but after 10,000 hands of poker, I’ve learned it is a way of life. It also happens to be crazy instructional and valuable with life lessons and lessons that are useful in business.

Lesson 1: Learning to Balance Risk Versus Reward

When playing poker, you must make the best possible decisions for yourself, and most of the time you’re weighing the odds of winning (rewards) versus the risk of losing things such as money, your shirt, the ability to avoid sleeping on the couch, etc. There are ways to calculate “pot odds,” which will inform you whether to call the bet or fold. This gets too complicated to explain here, but it’s clear that minimizing risk is the name of the game.

It’s virtually the same in business. You must make decisions while considering known uncertainties, assess unforeseen risks, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the competition (Why does Mark scratch his head when he bluffs?), and come up with a strategy that puts you in the best position to win.

Lesson 2: You need to learn how to win and lose gracefully. 

To earn respect in life and to a large extent in business, you have to learn how to win and lose gracefully. This is also true of poker. My poker-playing dentist pal, Chuck is a wonderful example of a gracious winner and loser. When he wins, Chuck accepts it honorably with a comment like, “Boy, I’m getting the cards tonight,” or “Thanks, I needed that.” But if he gets hit upside his head losing with four of a kind to a higher four of a kind – a tremendous burn by the way – he can still be a good sport and joke about it and say, “Wow, Terry, you gutted me like a fish!” Comments like this reveal a solid inner character and prove that you can dish it out and eat crow when it’s been served up on your plate, which is essential in life, poker, and food service.

One of my best buddies, Mark, on the other hand, is the worst winner and loser of all time. When he wins, he gloats, is loud, and thoroughly obnoxious. When he loses, he whines, is loud, and thoroughly obnoxious. It’s your basic lose-lose situation and if he weren’t so otherwise lovable, we’d ban him from the table.  

In business, I’ve learned when you’re busy and things are going well, it’s best if you play the extent of your success down. You don’t want to say things like, “We are killing it. Business has never been better.” During the pandemic, business for a lot of people got a boost. The owner of a liquor store that belongs to a networking group I’m in gleefully said in a Zoom, “My business is up 75%.” I felt like saying, well why don’t you drink a toast to Covid-19.

Lesson 3: Know when to hold ‘em and fold ‘em

One of the critical keys in poker, life, and in business is knowing when to hang in there and knowing when it’s time to drop out and get out of dodge. Unreasonable hope is the culprit here. When someone is showing the real possibility of a flush and you’re hoping the last card you get will be a six to complete a straight. The odds are 1 in 52 or something ridiculously bad like that, that you’re going to draw that card. Time to tuck that hope away and accept reality – then go buy a lottery ticket cause, after all, “somebody’s got to win.”

What about business? You’re hoping for a promotion, but the job goes to someone else. On top of that, your boss barely says hi to you, criticizes your work openly, and clearly doesn’t value or request your input. Sounds like it’s time to fold ‘em and move

Time to Fold ‘Em for This Blog, Part 2: Coming Soon to a (Major) Miner Blog Near You   

There’s so much more to say about lessons to be learned from poker that I’m dividing this blog up into two parts. Join us for Part 2 next week. Just for your own edification, if you want to take the gamble out of hiring a full-service agency that you can rely on to bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and strategic savvy to every project, bet on The Miner Agency. They will go “ALL-IN” to take your business to the next level.