Winning ways: what the world’s best poker players and entrepreneurs have in common

Regardless of whether we’re a successful business leader, a middle ranking manager, or an apprentice learning the ropes, we all want to make good decisions and deliver good results at work. To achieve that we need the right knowledge, skills and attitude. And we don’t just need those things once, we need them throughout the course of our lives and careers. We all need continual development if we are to grow and perform at our best. But when our existing options for improving our performance run dry, who can we turn to? Looking more deeply into how someone else improved their performance, and achieved their goals, can be a source of inspiration and practical ideas. Outliers are the obvious first choice. Their extreme level of success is likely by design, not by accident. Take the world’s most successful poker players as an example. Believe it or not, their skills and attitude are worth serious consideration. Just like any successful person there’s a reason they got to where they are: they have something the rest of us don’t, or if we do have it then it’s less well developed. There’s much more to their success than meets the eye!

Lee Carnihan has reviewed Greg Dinkin’s work and summarized the principles and results in the form of a useful article describing the skills shared between the most successful poker players and entrepreneurs. The best poker players and entrepreneurs share 13 skills, although this is not to imply these are the only common skills between these two groups. There could be more and the ones identified could also evolve over time.

This is what was identified:

1. Winners are considerate and walk in the shoes of others

2. Winners think “win-win”

3. Winners think “it depends” rather than rely on rules

4. Winners choose the right game and are market-driven rather than ego-driven

5. Winners pay attention and can identify “tells”

6. Winners think several moves ahead while anticipating their opponents’ actions

7. Winners are forward thinking, recognize sunk costs, and take small losses

8. Winners master the inexact science of measuring expected value

9. Winners start from a position of strength by playing at the right stakes

10. Winners have tools to deal with emotion and manage tilt

11. Winners are selective, aggressive, and plug leaks

12. Winners know when to keep their cards close to the vest

13. Winners are life-long learners

None of those skills are unattainable. They take training and determination. Many of us might already possess some of these skills to some degree, so all that is required to make better use of them is a refinement and an opportunity. That doesn’t have to be at the poker table. We can do it at work, home, or on the squash court: wherever we want.

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