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Poker and Business Part 1 – Decision Making

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by Full Tilt Poker

Great situational analysis, an eye for detail, and the drive to succeed; these are not only the key skills and principles that all poker players strive to develop or attain, but are also the traits used to describe those who are successful in business.

Whether you are aware of it or not, playing poker will drastically improve attributes that, when transferred to a business situation, will give you an immediate advantage over the competition.

This, of course, is no secret as many people have harnessed the cognitive benefits of poker and, with it, the understanding of human behaviour that lends itself so well to the boardroom.

Full Tilt Poker spoke with Greg Dinkin, the author of four books, including The Poker MBA, to give us an insight into how poker principles translate into business success.

Decision Making

Playing poker serves as a formidable tool in business and life. As Greg explains, it “builds the muscles of strategic thinking and emotional intelligence. Because emotion, fatigue and human nature play a role, it creates an environment that tests you and develops your skills faster and more efficiently than anything else.”

Strategic thinking and emotional intelligence, when applied to both poker and business, are what aid correct decision making. By being honest about your capabilities before going into a game of poker and challenging yourself about the best and worst possible scenarios on every hand you are able to strengthen your emotional intelligence.

It is commonplace in poker to see both beginners and professional poker players hold an emotional attachment to certain hands. These perceptions, that can be both positive and negative, are present because of past experiences or through observations of other players.

A novice poker player that has lost money with a certain set of cards will automatically hold a stigma towards them irrespective of whether they were playing mathematically correct poker. As a result this player will be more inclined to fold those cards once they are dealt to them again. Folding with these cards because of emotion is the wrong decision.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson notoriously won two consecutive WSOP bracelets with a hand of 10-2. Although 10-2 does not have the potential to establish itself as a winning hand, it is fair to say that Brunson holds an affinity towards these particular cards because they have brought him good fortune in the past. By our observations, we could therefore surmise that 10-2 would be a great hand to theoretically invest in, however, by playing this hand whenever it is dealt to you would again be making the wrong decision.

In both these examples, past experiences are diverting from correct play. There are many other variants other than emotion that need to be taken into consideration before a player acts. Gaining experience will make these decisions easier and, in turn, will give you the opportunity to make an informed decision devoid of emotional attachment.

Poker is a game where your mistakes are important because they offer you the opportunity to learn. Becoming alert to your own behavioural abnormalities when you are dealt a certain set of cards will help you take a step back and become more analytical in your approach.

This same tactic can be applied in business. Mistakes offer companies the opportunity to learn and develop. Being honest about the capabilities of your team and having an in-depth knowledge of your specific industry will ultimately lead you to consistently make the correct decisions. By applying techniques learnt through poker – such as linear thought – to your business endeavours, you will ensure that decisions are not primarily based on emotion.

Check out Part Two here (and then Part Three here).