Wednesday, July 20, 2011

...playing Texas Hold'em

Sport analogies are common in the business world, from the lessons in team sports to strategic thinking in chess. This blog looks at a more unconventional one: Texas Hold'em.

This version of Poker has gained some popularity since the 2000s as it’s been more and more televised. Today, it’s become the most popular casino game.

Finding business lessons in cards is a move away from my more traditional blogs on places and personalities; in short, it's a gamble.

The Ten Things I learned…playing Texas Hold’em

1. Set a spending budget
Before starting any gambling, make sure to set a budget and stick to it, otherwise you’ll find yourself broke pretty quickly. Like in business, for any new risky investment, set a spending budget and track against it. If you’re getting a positive return keep playing! If you’ve reached bottom, step out. 

2. Practice in a safe environment
These days, online Poker allows everyone to become familiar with the game and practice their strategies in a risk-free and affordable environment – not to mention the fun. Before starting a new business or launching a risky new product, test your ideas out in smaller markets to become comfortable with how the business game is played -you might want to walk before you run.

3. Be ready to go "all in"
In Texas Hold'em you have four opportunities to place your bets, but at any point - and depending on your chances - be ready to go "all in", an expression and move that requires you to bet everything you have on the table. At work, if you have the pair of aces, you might want to take the risk to go all in, but even with the best cards, there's always a chance you can lose. 

4. Reconsider your moves
As the game progresses, new cards are dealt on the table, from the first three ("the flop") to the next two ("the turn" and the "river") you are given the option to reconsider your move and bets. As in Poker, in every business decision you get a new chance to bet, raise, check, or fold.

5. Understand the probabilities of success
Every combination of cards has a different chance of winning, beginning with the first two in your hand, to the subsequent five dealt on the table. In the end, you’re looking to collect the strongest 5 cards from a particular Poker ranking. At work, we are given new information constantly, like cards dealt on a table, consider your decisions carefully and the probabilities of a successful outcome.

6. Study your competition's moves
Competitors go a long way to put on a "poker face" in professional games. The most interesting ones are the over-the-top glasses, hats, and earphones seen on live TV championships. Winning comes down to outsmarting your competition; like in chess, outsmarting them rests on understanding their moves.

7. Know when to walk away
Poker gives you the option to "fold" at any point and turn in your cards. Unfortunately your bets so far go with them. Sometimes at work we aren’t dealt the most favorable cards, be wise on how to play them or whether to play them at all. 

8. Avoid distractions
The most fun I've had playing the game has been with good friends, good food, and good drinks, but my seriousness increases proportionately with the budget and the risk of the game. Concentrating becomes particularly difficult when you’re having a good time – especially in Vegas with the never ending slot machines sounding in the background. Find room to concentrate on what you're doing, it's probably important.

9. Don’t be afraid to play with the big guys
When you are ready, take some risks at professional tables. I did it in my last visit to Vegas and more than doubled my starting budget. We've all heard before if you want to win big you have to play big. Bring that principle to work each day. 

10. Change if it’s not your thing
Lastly, Texas Hold'em isn’t for everyone. If it’s not your game go ahead and change tables. Similarly, ask yourself if your job is your game. If it is, go all in...If not, consider folding and changing the game.

Each day we go to work we place a new bet. Like in any tournament only a few win the big prize, those who have a strategy, take the risks, and play big. So place some chips on the table, play the right hands, and have no-limits.

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