Bet on it: What high-stakes poker can teach entrepreneurs about running a small business

18th May 20 2:41 pm

Are you ready to take the plunge and start your new business? Maybe you recently had a grand idea for an enterprise, or perhaps owning your own company is something youâ€™ve been thinking about for years. Either way, it pays to know all you can before getting started.

As it turns out, poker can be a great teacher. From calculating risk to operating under pressure and even managing a team, you can learn valuable skills from the game. Savvy entrepreneurs will take this knowledge into account when running their business and to thrive in todayâ€™s competitive world.

1. Calculating risk & reward

Those who risk nothing, gain nothing. The good news is, youâ€™re already risking quite a bit as an entrepreneur. While only around 10% of startups fail in their first year, it is estimated that nearly 90% will fail throughout the lifetime of the business. This is important to know, so you can stay in it for the long haul. This is your livelihood on the line.

Poker players encounter similar risks as they play a high-stakes game. With sizeable amounts of money in the pot, a player could be looking to gain or lose their monthly salary with a single decision. They must make mathematical assessments to calculate their odds of winning with accuracy and precision in a matter of seconds, adjusting their strategy to fit the current situation.

Likewise, entrepreneurs must calculate the risks of certain steps like business expansion and investments against the potential rewards. They have to adjust their plans to fit with changes in the market, a shifting economy, and new technology. The only way to win is to think like a poker player, with cold logic at the forefront of your mind and emotions on the back burner.

A group of entrepreneurs discuss the importance of taking calculated risks in the business world.

But what if you simply canâ€™t win? One of the most vital aspects of running a business is knowing when to cut your losses and scrap a certain project or endeavor which isnâ€™t paying off. As it turns out, poker can teach you all about that as well. Once you practice playing the game, youâ€™ll become better at sensing when itâ€™s time to quit.

Youâ€™ll be able to assess the risk to reward ratio, factoring in each possibility hidden in your hand and making judgements quickly and intelligently. Over time, your mind will become more adept at making these decisions outside of the game too, so knowing when to fold in poker can pay off big time if you want to become an agile entrepreneur.

2. Perseverance in the face of pressure

Imagine youâ€™re sitting at a poker table with a couple million pounds on the line. Itâ€™s a high-stakes tournament, and youâ€™ve been playing since the early morning. Itâ€™s now the late afternoon, and youâ€™re feeling tired. Your back is sore, your eyes hurt, and your brain is exhausted from all the hard thinking and strategising youâ€™ve been doing. All you want to do is get up from that table and walk away, but you canâ€™t. Everything boils down to the outcome of this game. You have to go on.

While this might sound grueling, itâ€™s the everyday life of an entrepreneur. Highly successful business owners report working 10-12 hours per day, with some averaging 14-18 hours. Of course, it isnâ€™t a pace which you can hold for the rest of your life, but it may be necessary when your company is in its infancy.

As an entrepreneur, you can expect to work well over the standard 40-hour weekâ€”but if you persevere, it will pay off.

Â Like the high-stakes poker players, you must grind hard while facing the risk of massive losses and the pressure which comes from knowing that youâ€™re one wrong move away from losing it all. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. While you may not rake in millions instantaneously, success looms on the horizon for those who are willing to take those calculated risks and persevere in the face of adversity.

3. People skills & management

Management is an essential skill for any entrepreneur, especially since 23% of failed startups report that issues with their team are a major contributing cause of the decline. Even if youâ€™re a one-man band at the beginning, you may need to hire outside help eventually. And when your business does grow, knowing how to lead your team should be a top priority.

There are a myriad of reasons why startups fail. A poorly chosen team or a team which doesnâ€™t act cohesively can break your business, meaning your role as manager is especially vital.

Poker can teach you a lot about people skills and making connections through reading body language. Poker players must learn how to read their opponents quickly and accurately, making snap decisions based on the other personsâ€™ actions or lack thereof. They must learn how to track a personâ€™s behavioral patterns, making predictions about actions and reactions based on past behavior.

They must also learn how their own actions affect the game. They have to project their own personality in different ways, learning how their expressions, tones, and minute movements affect the other players and the moves their opponents make. They must become chameleons, making convincing bluffs with fluidity and adapting these processes to fit whichever situation they find themselves in.

Learning to read body language can make you a better manager, helping you to turn your new hires into a business dream team.

Caption: Learning to read body language can make you a better manager, helping you to turn your new hires into a business dream team.

All these people skills are also essential to the entrepreneur. When youâ€™re searching for potential candidates for a job opening, you can judge them partly based on their body language and communicatory competence. Youâ€™ll be able to tell if they have the vital skills new hires need to become a real asset to the company, like creativity, critical thinking, and trustworthiness.

Once you have the team in place, you can manage it like an actual boss as well. Youâ€™ll be able to read your employees, understand which leadership tactics they respond best to, and manage them with competence. By adapting your tone of voice and body language to fit certain situations and specific staff members, you can convey what you like with ease while inspiring an air of authority and professionalism.

If youâ€™re ready to become that beast of the business world youâ€™ve always wanted to be, studying up on poker can help you out immensely. Thereâ€™s no better time to get started than now, so why not begin learning the tricks of the trade today? Your future is waiting for you, and fortune could be in your favor.