To be a successful entrepreneur, you need endless curiosity, the flexibility to adjust to practically any situation, and the strength to conquer anything that comes your way. And with 60% of UK-based small businesses failing within their first two years — a phenomenon exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19 — you’ll need these qualities more than ever. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to hone these skills, and you can draw inspiration from different places, even the most unlikely of ones.
One of these unlikely sources is poker. In fact, thanks to the strategic nature of the game, even professional poker players have gone on to establish their own flourishing businesses. Retired player Annie Duke, for instance, is famous for her high-profile wins, including winning a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet. In 2006, she started the charity organization Ante up for Africa, and a year after retiring from poker, she co-founded the Global Poker Index.
But what does this mean for you? How exactly does poker help young women thrive as entrepreneurs?
It helps you master the basics
Just like in business, you can play all your cards right and still not win a hand. What matters, though, is that you stick to the basics, persevere, and keep trying despite failure. Arianna Huffington, for instance, was rejected by 36 publishers before she went on to become co-founder of The Huffington Post and the founder and CEO of Thrive Global. She’s also the author of 15 books, and has credited her success to her ability to stick to her guns in the face of criticism and failure.
It helps you analyse risk
On a similar note, by helping you master the basics, poker also teaches you how to make more calculated and responsible decisions along the way. This is because it requires you to be adept at analysing risk in order to succeed.
Business and poker are both unpredictable. Thus, by calculating the odds in a poker game, you can figure out the next steps to take to play the so-called “profitable long-term.” For example, you have a 6-5 hand and the pot is worth £70. If the next round of calls is over £55, you’d know that the risk is not worth taking since the cost of you losing is too great – not to mention you have a bad hand anyway.
This type of critical thinking sharpens your decision-making skills, helping you factor in every possibility — especially worst-case scenarios — before you make your next move.
It helps you read people better
Part of the process both entrepreneurs and poker players undergo includes analysing people’s body language, manner of speech, and other key details. This gives you information on the strategy of your competitors, helping you stay ahead of the game. One common poker ‘tell,’ for instance, is composure: Players with good hands tend to be more relaxed and make more confident eye contact.
This approach can apply to any employees you may have taken on, as well. By noticing their behavioural patterns and predicting how interactions between them will play out, you can strategise how to maximise their productivity and boost their wellbeing.
It helps you roll with the punches
There’s no doubt about it, poker and business are both high-pressure endeavours. By constantly exposing yourself to a high-stakes environment, poker helps you keep a level head no matter the circumstances – a valuable skill to have in the unpredictable business world. You’ll be able to roll with the punches, too, which involves accepting that failure is an inevitable part of the learning process.
It encourages you to keep learning
Speaking of learning, this is probably the most important thing that poker can instil in you. Each game of poker and business decision is an opportunity for you to find points for improvement.
Indeed, if you look hard enough, you’ll see that there’s something new to learn each day, and this can only benefit you in the long run. By keeping yourself mentally sharp for longer, you’re giving yourself more time to leave a mark on the business world.
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