The Business of Poker

The Business of Poker

I’m not much of a card player; my limit is solitaire and snap. So in order to attend a poker classic, I asked for some advice from seasoned poker players.
These are the rules they gave me:
• Don’t Play Every Hand
• Don’t bluff too much
• Think about your opponent’s cards
• Don’t Stay in a Hand Just Because You’re Already In It
• Pay Attention to the Cards on the Table
• Pay Attention to the Other Players
• Don’t Play for too high a stake
• Pick the Right Game for Your Skill Level and Bankroll

It got me thinking, Poker is very like business, so can we apply the same rules?

Don’t play every hand
Just because someone issues a tender or offers a contract for a product or service, it doesn’t mean that we have to respond every time. Sometimes we forget about the cost of responding to a tender – how many hours have you spent poring over spreadsheets and composing 60 page documents, and then hearing nothing. We shouldn’t tender for the sake of tendering. We should only go after business if there is a compelling reason to, and it makes good financial sense. We should be selective and get the best return on our resources.

Don’t bluff too much
This is obvious – no one would meet a potential customer without thoroughly understanding the customer, the competition and their own products and services would they? Of course not, because we can all see through fluff and we instinctively know when someone is making things up or doesn’t know the answer to our questions.

Think about your opponents cards
Again, this is pretty obvious, but we should know our competitors’ products as well as we know our own, otherwise how do we compare and contrast, and make a compelling argument to our customers.

Don’t stay in a hand just because you’re already in it
Having worked in an area for years is not reason enough to stay working in it, if it has ceased to be profitable. Maybe it’s time to think about diversification or new markets.

Pay attention to the Cards on the Table
Business conditions change constantly – new legislation, new taxes, volatile economic conditions and changing demographics all affect our business. Knowing the conditions will improve our decision making and strategy.

Pay attention to the Other Players
In business we need to understand the needs of customers and stakeholders, our failure to understand their needs can lead to loss of business. We also need to understand the roles of individuals – buyers, influencers and gatekeepers. Developing relationships in business can lead to long term working relationships and repeat business.

Don’t play for too high a stake
Growing a business too fast can lead to an implosion – take only the level of business that you can comfortably cope with. The thought of a massive contract can be unbelievably attractive, but do you have the cash flow to carry you through until payment comes? The big job could mean a big initial investment in materials and salary costs, which you may have to self-fund. And although businesses are getting better in paying promptly, it could still be months before payment comes through.

Pick the Right Game for Your Skill Level and Bankroll
The moral here is not to over extend yourself in terms of skills and finance. Don’t over promise, work with like sized partners where possible, and monitor finances closely.

Although I’m not ready for Texas Hold’em just yet, the rules of the game make a lot of sense. I just have to follow them…