After football goes off on Sunday nights, I tune in to watch poker tournaments on TV. While it may sound boring to most, I get caught up in the stories of each person playing at the table. All of the pros that are competing are regular people…recent college grads, entrepreneurs, salespeople, etc. So naturally I sit on my couch saying, “That could be me!”
Between the bets, I relate their play to what I either dealt with the week prior at work or what I will encounter the following Monday morning. And if you really break it down, poker is a lot like business:
- Money is gained and lost
- There are risks and rewards
- Reading people and reacting accordingly is a key to success
I have also learned that one of the most important things to know about playing poker is knowing when to stay in the pot (keep betting/risking) and knowing when to get the heck out of dodge…or folding…which is just like the advice I often give to managers.
Now, most ambitious, business minded people respond to that by saying, “Are you saying to give up? Should I let other people win?” On the contrary! My advice to you is that just like with poker, the odds of your professional success increase when you are patient, strategic and timely when making your moves. The wins stack up when you are insightful enough to let someone else take this pot, so that you can bank more later and take home the ultimate prize!
Be Strategically Patient
There are many types of players and several different styles of play…cerebral, eccentric, reckless, overly confident, methodical, etc.…and while all types have occasional success, those that have been consistently successful use their minds more than their muscle. And while speed and aggression can be good for quick wins, smarter players begin to take advantage of the aggression and call their bluffs.
There are times in our careers that we want to make the quick, “all-in” move, hoping that the cards fall our way. We give ourselves less than 50/50 chances, putting our faith in other people and luck. By taking calculated risks at the right time and not rushing into critical decisions, we give ourselves better chances to dictate the outcome and control our own destinies.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Every wonder why poker players always wear hats and sunglasses? Well I’ll help you out. Every player has what they call “tells”. Tells are little signals, inadvertent gestures, etc. that they do when they are nervous, excited, anxious or lying. When they look a certain way or say certain things, you know to expect a certain bet or move. By reading the other players, the smart pro can tell when they are being bluffed (faked out) or when they should run like hell.
One thing that has definitely helped me in my endeavors is paying attention to those around me. And while you may not be playing for million dollar pot, taking note and adjusting your actions according to other people’s tells, strengths and weaknesses help you to work better with others and stay a few steps ahead of them if necessary. On the same token, be mindful that people are reading you as well and formulating their strategy. So we must:
- Know when to talk and know when to listen.
- Know when to make the big move and know when to sit back and let the move happen around you.
- Know when to fight and know when the fight is not worth it.
- Know when to take chances and know when to be conservative and careful.
Professional success is not a quick cash game; it’s a slow tournament where patience, endurance and strategy help to ensure that you leave the table as the victor. If it can be helped, every move that we make should be as deliberate and as thought out as possible, because the last thing we want is to be caught without a good hand or a great plan. Ol’ Kenny Rogers said in The Gambler, “If you’re gonna play the game, you gotta learn to play it right”, and the best way to play it is to play it smartly.