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How to Negotiate in Business Using Poker Skills

Learning the rules of poker can shape how you negotiate in the real world. Build your negotiation skills with the power of poker.
woman improving negotiation skills through practicing poker

Every move in poker requires a plan. Some moves come naturally, as experience makes bets and raises second nature in certain situations. However, many materialize over time by learning from past successes and mistakes combined with research and continuous learning.

Business negotiations require the same planning. Historically, women are not as aggressive or confident in negotiations as their male counterparts. While the gender wage gap is not women’s fault, women do possess the tools to increase the skills they bring into meetings and business discussions.

Poker can show us how to effectively do this, and Poker Power is providing the poker basics to get started.

Negotiations are everything

Harvard Law School defines a business negotiation as “negotiations between corporate entities, their vendors, or their employees.” Ultimately, it is a process by which two or more parties come together to find a solution to an issue. This can happen in a job interview, but more often it takes place in salary negotiations, raise and promotion discussions, and even work project delegations.

Here’s an example. Person A enters a negotiation meeting with a list of specific goals in mind. Person B will likely bring different goals to the same table. One option would be Person A easily accepts what Person B suggests, which is less stressful, and nonconfrontational. Or alternatively, Person A can come more prepared with additional research and bring new information, combined with their own past experiences, to the table. Add in some confidence and a few other key tools, and Person A has a much better chance of achieving her goals instead of accepting those of Person B. The result of a negotiation can be the difference between a small or large raise, participating in or managing a project, or gaining a job title versus simply the responsibilities without proper recognition.

Negotiations aren’t always major sit-down, annual discussions, though. And becoming a good negotiator comes in handy for seemingly insignificant situations all the way to annual reviews and new job opportunities.

Negotiating at a poker table

People unfamiliar with poker might wonder what negotiations can really happen at a poker table. There are just bets, raises, and folds, right? You can’t exactly negotiate with another player to agree on a mutually beneficial bet.

In fact, negotiation skills come almost naturally to poker players, and they use these skills in every game or tournament to help achieve their desired outcomes.

A player’s ability to risk based on odds gives that person the fairest shot at winning the hand. She can prepare for certain moves by working through possible player actions prior to the tournament through research of opponents or blind structures and by knowing the optimal times to move all-in. There are decisions at every turn, and poker players learn how to anticipate them, balance risks with rewards, and reap the benefits. Or they learn from their mistakes and move on.

Negotiating as a poker player

Meet Jane, a recreational poker player who plays tournaments whenever the opportunity arises. She doesn’t play for a living, but uses her poker earnings to fund vacations and extracurricular activities for her family.

Jane played a tournament last month. She bought in for $100, but had the possibility to win $10,000 if she finished first. However, she miscalculated the odds of a key hand and lost because she hadn’t been paying attention to her opponent’s prior moves. If she had, she would have seen that he never bluffed.

When Jane played her next tournament, she was more prepared:

  • She spent more time researching strategies for playing events with this level of buy-in and opponents at that skill level.
  • She remembered some key hands from that last tournament because she had taken some notes between hands. She ran those hands through a free online simulator to discover more optimal strategies in those situations. She brought that knowledge to the next event.
  • Instead of bringing ear pods, she decided to listen to table talk and watch other peoples’ hands more closely, even those in which she wasn’t involved.
  • She brushed up on her pot odds, which is the ability to calculate the worth of the pot versus how much it will cost to call a bet or a raise.
  • After studying and doing the research, Jane went into the tournament feeling more confident.

Jane didn’t win that next tournament, but she made the final table and turned her $100 buy-in into a $3,000 payday.

Negotiating as a corporate professional seeking a promotion

Meet Jane version 2.0, a corporate professional who has been working with the same company for more than ten years. She wanted a job promotion and a commensurate raise, so she wanted to be prepared for an upcoming review meeting. Through some research, she found numerous articles written by successful businesswomen regarding salary negotiations.

Jane also realized many of her poker skills could help her reach that goal.

  • She researched average salaries for the type of job for which she hoped to be promoted. By knowing the standard and weighing that against what she discovered about co-workers’ salaries, she could go into the meeting with confidence and numbers. She knew where to start the negotiation and at what point she could accept an offer.
  • Jane talked to a co-worker who had interviewed for a promotion with the same manager. She gained knowledge of that person’s tactics so she could be more mentally prepared and made sure to exude confidence from the moment she walked into the meeting.
  • For the week leading up to the meeting, she watched the manager more closely at work to gauge their willingness to negotiate. She also cleared her mind before the meeting to be able to read her opponent – the manager – as they talked.
  • Jane set a bottom line for herself. She knew that if the manager wouldn’t stay over that line, she could turn down the promotion and develop a plan to look elsewhere for a job that paid commensurate with her experience and skills.

From now on, go all-in and bet on yourself. In business and in life, the poker table is every table. Take your seat and discover the power of poker with our poker lessons.

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