Can playing poker teach you lessons for the business of life? Yes, it’s true. While for some, a game of poker is just a way of letting off steam, for many, poker teaches critical business skills that they carry with them beyond the table. 

Poker teaches you business skills

For example, take the owner and chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion football club, Tony Bloom, who says poker still influences much of his approach to work:

“It uses so many different skills. It’s about risk, calculated risk, understanding of situations, reading people, there’s a lot to it. I miss poker. It can teach people lots about life, about individuals, about personalities, character — the psychology is big. There have been parts of the game that have helped me in terms of making decisions and certainly running a football club — the calculated risks in particular.” — Tony Bloom, The Times

At PepTalk, we have many such business and poker polymaths like Tony on our list of experts who use their experience with the game to explore to show you how to interact with our world better. On her YouTube channel, Liv Boeree uses her poker knowledge to explain game theory and counter-intuitive thought experiments alongside science and astrophysics insights. Likewise, Maria Konnikova, a psychologist and journalist, writes books that teach people how to recognise which details matter and master the science of deduction. 

You can enjoy lessons of resilience from William Hung, who, using his experience of the entertainment world and poker career, helps others understand how they can make better decisions based on what is true rather than what others feel should be the truth. Finally, Jennifer Shahade uses her prowess across the board to highlight ways to achieve gender equality in sport; not only is she a poker pro but also a two-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion.

Some other poker skills - that anyone can apply to the business world - include developing a growth mindset, learning from mistakes, developing focus and determination, and maintaining ethical and fair standards in games and business dealings. Even bankroll management has its place.

7 Tips For Thinking Like A Poker Pro in Business

The most impactful lesson poker can give is how to think differently and critically about any given challenge.  Here are seven PepTalk tips you can put into action immediately on how you can think like a poker pro:  

  1. Know When To Think Hard. Sometimes, we spend too long on trivial decisions when it's the irreversible ones we need to focus on.
  2. Don’t Be Scared To Bluff Big. If you never get adverse reactions, you might not take full advantage of the cards you’ve been dealt.
  3. Think Ahead & Sideways. Rather than analysing a singular move, it recommends considering options and thinking fewer steps ahead across each.
  4. Always Think Big. Even when we lose many times, winning decisions matter in the end. Ensure you’re constantly calibrating each move with the big win in mind.
  5. Patience Is Key. Poker teaches you to wait for the right opportunity and not rush into decisions. In business, patience can be necessary when waiting for deals to develop or long-term strategies to pay off.
  6. Stay Adaptable. Much like poker, the business of life is a dynamic game where you must adapt to changing circumstances. You’ll encounter evolving markets and unexpected challenges throughout your career, so regrouping quickly is critical.  
  7. Intentionally Build Relationships. Poker often involves socialising and building relationships with other players beyond the game. Likewise, networking and authentic relationship-building are crucial for partnerships, sales, and career growth in business.

Final thoughts

When it comes to the cards you’re dealt, as Kenny Rogers wisely said,  you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run. The same goes for decision-making, professional relationships, product offerings, and even for something as significant as choosing who to hire a Premier League football team coach. Hopefully, next time you’re faced with a decision, you'll be in a much better position by using a few of the suggested tactics a poker player uses to think! 

💡 Interested in a PepTalk Live session on this subject? We have a wealth of expert storytellers in our network, here to help ensure you and your team can win at the business of life — simply drop us an email, and we'll set up a free strategy call.

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