Considering a different career or starting a new business venture right now might be risky in these uncertain economic times. However, it is precisely against this backdrop of chaos that your new act could flourish with some well-suited skills from an unexpected source — playing poker.
It’s true. Poker teaches strategic thinking, overcoming fear, trusting in yourself, and how to take calculated risks, all skills you will need when you’re ready to take the big leap.
In poker, there is always some missing information you don’t know. You can’t see your opponents’ cards, for example, and you can’t know how much they are going to bet. How do you fill that information gap? Poker teaches probability and how to compute it. It’s all about knowing the odds without knowing what your competitors have and imagining all the probable outcomes.
Here’s an example. You start with two cards in Texas Hold ’em. Community cards are then dealt that can make your hand better or worse. When the flop — the three cards that are dealt face up — is revealed, it means you only have two more cards, or two more chances, to improve your hand.
Here’s a good place to start doing the math. You need to know how many cards can better your hand (in poker they’re called outs), and then if the last two cards have not been dealt yet, you can multiply your outs by four and come up with the percentage that is the probability of bettering your hand. If there are only three outs, then your percentage is 12%.
It puts it in perspective how good or bad your chances are to help you make an informed decision. And if there’s only one card left to be dealt, you multiply that by two, so now the probability is cut in half.
Playing poker gets you used to balancing losses versus potential gains, a skill every entrepreneur definitely needs.
Raising the stakes
If you waited for a perfect hand at the poker table, you’d never play. Same holds true for changing your career or becoming an entrepreneur. There’s never an absolutely perfect time to pivot careers or start your own business. At some point, you have to trust your instincts and take the leap.
Every poker game offers several challenges to consider. Little wins build confidence in poker and in life. The more times you take those calculated risks, the more familiar you become with the process and strategic thinking will become second nature.
No one can master poker overnight and certainly you’re not going to be an overnight success in your business or new career either. Both take work. Invest in yourself and commit to making progress toward building your future through strategic thinking and decision-making with every hand. There are no shortcuts. Intense study and immersion into your new field can help you learn quicker, but realize this is a slow and steady process, so be sure to choose something that energizes and excites you.
Poker players make on-the-spot assessments all the time. What do you notice about the people sitting around the table? What do you see? Women who play poker learn to watch and adjust their strategies according to how their opponents are playing.
It’s the same in business. Before changing careers or striking out on your own, it is imperative to evaluate the potential industry, your future competitors, and the finances available. Allocating chips teaches money management. Analyze the financials — how much money you have to invest in the business and how much you need to survive on a daily basis — along with the various ways to finance your venture.
Poker sets you up for success
Whether you’re at the poker table, contemplating making a career move, or thinking about starting your own business, it comes down to analyzing the situation with incomplete information. Poker helps you practice that.
Making that leap and stepping outside your comfort zone is a hard thing to do. You want to be set up for success, so analyze the information you do have — your cards, your opponents actions thus far, your position at the table, their possible range, and what type of player they seem to be — and decide if this is the best call.
It’s the same thing for a business venture. You can’t see the future, but you can analyze all the pieces you do have to set yourself up for success to take that calculated risk.
Want to learn more about how poker mirrors life? Deal yourself in and see how big one little card game can be. Learn the power of poker today, take basic poker lessons.