Being an Entrepreneur and Playing Poker: Two Peas in a Pod

*Written by Jared Gold, founder of Streamline.

Normally, I write [hopefully somewhat] helpful articles, but today, I'll write about the amusing correlation between entrepreneurship and poker - two of America's oldest past-times. 

From the ages about about 13 until 20, I had the "poker bug." It started when Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP). If everyone recalls suddenly seeing ESPN broadcasting a ton more poker, the Travel Channel having World Poker Tour events, etc., now you know that's why. In an event dominated by the same pros and "regulars," Chris Moneymaker, an "average Joe" accountant happened to come out on top. It's pretty widely recognized that he is not a good poker player, but he brought poker into mainstream American culture and suburbia, and that's how my friends and I first got hooked.

Chris Moneymaker [image source: http://www.blindbetpoker.com/img/wsop/wsop2003money.jpg]

Chris Moneymaker
[image source: http://www.blindbetpoker.com/img/wsop/wsop2003money.jpg]

Long story short, I started playing online (No Limit Texas Hold'em) and was instantly enamored...despite how atrociously bad I was to start. Eventually, I became pretty skilled, and proudly tell others that I used to play poker on the internet and was rather successful at it, and I like to think it helped prepare me for many other areas the rest of my life, including my web design business.

Here are some of the reasons that I believe entrepreneurship and poker go hand-in-hand:

You alone are responsible for your results. Your business is your business. You started it all and you're running the show. Don't blame the economy. Don't blame others for "not getting it." If you mess up, you better point your finger at yourself. You have to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you have to take ownership of your successes and failures. Poker, business, and life as a whole don't play favorites - so you better get to work and figure out how to turn any sub-par results around.

Results - not excuses. [image source: http://www.theaustin.com/sites/default/files/images/No%20Excuses.jpg]

Results - not excuses.
[image source: http://www.theaustin.com/sites/default/files/images/No%20Excuses.jpg]

While you're responsible for your results, don't be results-oriented. Being results-oriented means that you're focusing solely on results instead of the big picture. An example would be if two players in poker go "all-in" (put all of their chips into the middle of the pot) - one has a the best hand and one has the worst hand...and the guy with the worst hand wins. If the player with the best hand was being results-oriented, he could declare "I'll never go all-in with this hand again...I just lost!" Nothing in life is certain; you control what you can, knowing that eventually, things should prevail. Making good decisions based on credible information will pay off eventually.

Put yourself in positions to get lucky. In every facet of life, you have the chance to take a small risk for a potentially big reward. I've always believed that it is a great skill to see opportunity and being willing to stomach a small loss for a potentially huge payout. If you are willing to "put yourself out there" and be willing to lose a little of something (whether it's money, time, or even dignity), everything can change for the better.

You need to take risks to be successful. As mentioned earlier, nothing in life is certain at all. You can be the safest person in the world, with a cushy job and a large retirement fund, but still could face ruin in a variety of ways in the blink of an eye. People that don't know how to take a risk (assuming it's a somewhat calculated one) will often have mediocrity stick to them like a bad smell. In poker, if you utilize probability and other key information to your advantage, you will be very well in the long-term, and it's the same with business.

Numbers matter. If you've been playing poker for a considerable amount of time (over a large "sample size"), and your results are not where you'd like them to be, chances are that you're making some big mistakes. The same goes for business; it's fantastic if you think your idea is great and you enjoy what you do, but if you aren't meeting your goals over a long period of time, you should strongly consider evaluating how you're doing things and look for mistakes (in poker, these are often referred to as "leaks").

Always be learning. Humans evolve and adapt to their surroundings very quickly. This is why business, technology, and so many other areas of our existence are never stagnant. In poker, you had to always be learning and adapting to the way the game was played at that time. People that aren't always learning new things and staying up-to-date with important developments and trends can quickly fall into ruin. Always be humble in the sense of recognizing that there is always more to learn - through books, forums, and any other ways that you can gather knowledge and additional perspectives.

Always be learning and questioning things. [image source: http://continuities.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/cropped_learnverbs.png?w=1024]

Always be learning and questioning things.
[image source: http://continuities.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/cropped_learnverbs.png?w=1024]