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Nov 21, 2015

5 Poker Skills that apply to Business

By RTR Dennis

Many highly successful business people have found their way to poker in recent years. Social+Capital founder Chamath Palihapitiya, casino magnate Phil Ruffin, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and Skylar Capital founder Bill Perkins are just a few ultra-wealthy entrepreneurs who also love poker. And contrary to what one might think, these guys aren't just blowing off steam after work because poker can actually boost your business acumen too. That said, let's look at five specific poker skills that translate well to the business world.

1. Knowing when to fold Bad Cards

It's often been said that the best play in poker is folding. You could easily argue that this is terrible advice when holding pocket aces, but it largely holds true because most poker hands are unplayable. By folding poor cards, you will lose less money and wait until better situations arise. It's equally important to develop the same philosophy in business because there will be plenty of deals and investments that are doomed to fail. Obviously you don't want to be putting your money into an impossible situation, which makes knowing when to walk away an important skill.

2. Reading Other Poker Players

Too much is made about staring down opponents and knowing when your opponent is bluffing on the river with 7-5 offsuit (it doesn't happen much outside movies). Nevertheless, reading other players' tendencies and adapting to the table are crucial skills in poker. You'll find that reading people is also extremely important in business, where you must adapt in office settings and/or successfully negotiate with other parties. The better you know your competition, the more likely you are to gain an edge in business.

3. Knowing the Relationship between Skill and Luck

Poker is a gamble for every player who takes the felt. But on the bright side, this isn't a house-banked casino game, where you're guaranteed of losing the longer you play. Continually making the right play will make you a long-term winner in poker. The same can be said of business where, despite the risks involved, knowing the market and product well enough will go a long way towards making you a success.

4. Stay Committed during Poker Downswings

As just mentioned in the point above, there will be times when your resolve is truly tested in poker. After all, the luck element guarantees that there'll be points where you suffer through long losing streaks - no matter how well you're playing. Business is no different because there are plenty of high and low points along the way. It's all too easy to lose your head and/or quit when things are going really badly. But poker teaches you to continue making intelligent decisions in light of downswings while realizing that things will eventually get better.

5. Studying Poker Strategy and Your Own Play

If you want to experience any sort of long-term success in poker, then you really need to be well versed in strategy. Thankfully, there are many tools at your disposal, including articles, books, coaching, forums, training videos and discussion groups. But the key is that you put the time into learning poker strategy as well as analyzing your own play. Again, there's a parallel here with business because you need to spend enough time studying your field. Furthermore you should also review your own decisions and see where you can improve in the future.