We all know what poker is, a card game involving skill, risk and strategy, but how does it share similarities with entrepreneurship? The simplest way to explain this is by looking up the dictionary definition of an entrepreneur:
“A person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”
Much like Poker, building a start-up involves skill, risk, strategy and of course, a certain amount of luck. But what other similarities do they both share, and how can you learn from them to create a successful business?
Key Similarities of Poker and entrepreneurship
The Odds are against you
Statistically, most start-ups fail within their first year. Anything from lack of cash, strong competition, or simply no market need, can play a part in their downfall.
The odds may be stacked against entrepreneurs, but that does not mean it’s impossible to succeed. Product innovation, clever marketing, speed to market, are some of the ways to get ahead of the competition.
Poker too, is a game of odds and those odds can often be stacked against the player. The key is to maximise the hand that is dealt.
Experienced poker players can learn to win despite the cards they hold by remaining calm and not throwing in the towel. Similarly, entrepreneurs who can learn to defy the odds and find opportunity are more likely to succeed.
Running a business involves making multiple decisions every minute of every day. Poker is no different, should you play, bet, fold, call? The decisions come thick and fast.
In poker you can never have all the information required to make the right decision every time. You don’t know your opponent’s hand or the turn of the next card, and that’s why having a poker strategy is so important.
Players have to make the best decision with the information available to them in that moment. For example, the hand they have been dealt, the money they have left and analysis of their opponents’ style of play thus far.
Business is no different, entrepreneurs seek as much information as possible before making a choice: Target audience reports, market analysis, competition behaviour, etc, are all part of that process.
But running a business is fast paced and decisions need to be made based on risk and the information you have at the time. Playing poker not only helps players learn to make better decisions under stress, but to make those decisions quickly.
It would be foolish to sit down at a table and play high stakes poker if you have never played the game before. Just as it would be crazy to create a start-up with zero idea of what you are doing.
Many poker players learn their skills for free using bonuses and online promotions. From there they can progress and increase the stakes as their skills and experience grows.
Many professional players will study strategies and fine tune their tournament play before big competitions. All of this allows them to better evaluate the risk of each hand and therefore make better decisions.
By better evaluating risk, poker is no longer a game of gambling, but one of skill and strategy. Equally, an entrepreneur who better understands their product and market, is able to properly evaluate the risks that confront them.
Every poker player relies on luck at some point, no matter how experienced they are. You can analyse and strategize all you like, but ultimately luck will have its say in your success.
Of course, luck can be both good and bad, it can cause both success and failure. Poker players understand that no matter how skilled or knowledgeable they are, some things are simply out of their control.
Entrepreneurs too, can gather all the business information they need and have the best product on the market. But luck will play its part when it comes to determining their success or failure.
Savvy start-ups that understand not everything is under their control, will learn to better deal with their success and failures.
It is impossible to win every hand of poker or win every tournament you enter. Some days you’re just going to come up against a better player, be dealt poor hands or be all out of luck.
Good poker players understand this and learn to deal with adversity, minimise their losses and live to fight another day.
Many new business’s will experience setbacks, especially in their first year. A good entrepreneur will learn not to allow these failures to derail them.
Accepting that there will be bumps on the road is crucial. Learning from these setbacks and continuing to believe in yourself is a valuable lesson for any entrepreneur.
It’s not about the money
Poker is a fun game to play and that is a huge part of its worldwide popularity. Playing the game successfully will bring success in the form of money, but that is not people’s main reason for playing.
The best poker players are passionate about the game. That passion means they are eager to keep learning and practicing their skills in order to become better players.
Without that drive, players will soon become bored and unable to deal with the inevitable losses along the way. Anyone who thinks poker is all about winning big prizes and becoming rich is doomed to fail.
Entrepreneurs seeking to create a new venture are no different. A desire to make money and get rich quick will not see businesses through the inevitable bumps along the way.
Start-ups require hard work, with the early years bringing little financial reward and considerable risk. That’s why a passion and belief in the cause is vital to its success.
Lessons for entrepreneurs
There’s no doubt that poker and entrepreneurship share a similar skillset. Like a winning poker hand, a successful start-up combines luck, passion, decision making and an ability to beat the odds.
Both ventures involve high stakes and high risk for a potentially high reward. So if you truly want to become an entrepreneur, maybe it’s time to put your money where your mouth is?