Poker is not a team sport. It is a game of individual skill, intense concentration, and shrewd self-control. However, the knowledge and skills needed to become a better poker player also can make you a better team player at your workplace.
Critical thinking, active listening, problem solving, and emotional control are all incredibly useful attributes at the poker table. Bringing these skills to the conference table enhances trust, collaboration, and productivity among team members.
Here are five ways learning to play poker can empower you to be a better team player.
1. Poker enhances communication skills
Poker is a game of perception. While there is not a lot of talking, there is a high level of communication. Nonverbal communication, such as reading your opponents’ body language, is an important skill when deciding what and how much to bet.
Listening to others’ tone of voice is also key. Are they nervous or confident? At the poker table, this could mean your opponent is bluffing or holding pocket aces. At the office, it could mean your co-worker needs encouragement or praise.
Communicating emotional discipline is crucial to winning at poker, and it can certainly come in handy when dealing with a difficult co-worker or team member. Having the ability to step back, assess the situation at hand, and observe your co-workers’ communication signals can elevate you to team leader.
Henry David Thoreau said it best: “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”
2. Poker fine-tunes critical-thinking and problem-solving skills
If you want to be a great poker player, you’ve got to practice critical thinking regularly. Analyze all of the information available to you in a short period of time, and then place your bet based on the best possible outcome.
In a team environment, you must be willing to listen to others’ ideas and take into account various levels of expertise. Only then can you make an informed decision as a group about the next move. Strategic thinking requires you to consider other opinions, even if you think your idea is best. This is the epitome of being a good team player.
Poker also teaches you powerful problem-solving skills. With each hand, you have to accept the cards you are dealt and make your best play. Sometimes you fold in poker. Sometimes you bluff. Sometimes you go all-in. But every time, you’re forced to make a decision that either moves you closer to or further away from your intended goal. And each time, you learn a valuable lesson that will impact how you play the next hand. The more you play, the better you get.
The same principle applies to teamwork. The more you participate and the more you give, the better your team gets, and the better outcomes you’ll achieve.
3. Poker instills flexibility and adaptability
Poker is a game of calculated risk-taking. You never know for sure what cards you or your opponents are going to receive. Therefore, you have to be flexible, adaptable, and able to deal with uncertainty.
With each new hand, you have a new opportunity to win big. You don’t just give up if your previous hand was less than stellar. You simply recalibrate. The same goes for teamwork. You’ll continuously have new assignments and challenges that will require different approaches and solutions. You can’t apply the same strategy every time. You have to be flexible and open to new ideas.
Being adaptable makes you a better teammate. Being open to new ideas from other team members creates a positive environment where everyone feels heard and respected. When people feel respected, they are truly able to shine.
4. Poker teaches positioning and knowing your strengths
Where you’re seated at the poker table has a lot to do with how you place your bet. If you’re sitting to the right of the dealer, you’re in a position of power because you’re the last person to bet in that particular hand. You have the advantage of knowing what everybody else is doing.
In a team environment, each member comes to the table with different strengths and weaknesses. Accepting that a teammate might be more knowledgeable about a particular situation than you and being able to defer to them empowers the whole team. There will be times where you are the expert, and the rest of the team will look to you for guidance.
The key is not to let your ego get in the way of the group dynamic. If you stay at the poker table long enough, you’re going to experience all the different positions, and where you sit will determine how you play that particular hand. Same goes for being a good team member. Some days you’ll be in a leadership position, and some days you’ll be in a supporting position. You just have to keep showing up and contributing if you want to win.
5. Poker encourages collaboration and networking
When you learn the basic rules of poker, your confidence will increase. You won’t be afraid to sit down at the poker table, even if you think the other players are much more experienced. You might even want to join an in-person or online poker club to meet and talk with other poker players.
Having a higher level of confidence can help you speak up in meetings, take on additional projects, and meet new people. You are also more open to learning from other team members instead of considering them a threat. This new attitude creates a dynamic synergy among your teammates that can help everyone succeed, both as a team and as individuals.
If you want to better your odds at being a good team player, start by learning to play poker. The skills you gain at the poker table will not only make you a better team member, they also will make you a better friend, parent, spouse, and employee. And in this scenario, everyone wins.
Ready to go all-in? Learn how to play poker with Poker Power’s individual classes. Or, if your corporation wants to reap the benefits of an empowered female workforce, sign up for our corporate poker workshops. See for yourself what the power of poker can do for you.