7 Habits for a Successful Life I Learned at the Poker Table

I’m partial to a bet. I rarely win, if I’m honest. But I enjoy the ride and sometimes, I even learn a thing or two. For me, the most enjoyable bets are those where you can balance the odds; where you can adjust your position as you go; where the opportunity to learn is huge — much like life, really.

Poker is my allegory for life (or is that scant justification for my trip to Vegas next week…). Using small bets to open chances for bigger success. A series of measured plays in the hope you will eventually pull in a big pot—courtesy of good timing and touch of luck along the way, of course.

I try to learn from anything I do. Here is what I have taken from poker.

1. Play whilst the stakes are low

Early and often is key. Take risks as early as possible in life. We have few commitments, can afford small losses and have time to rebuild. Dipping your toe in won’t cost much and the lessons you learn will be invaluable as the stakes get higher and the game gets tougher.

Plus, there’s nothing like an early taste of success to add a bit of fuel to your fire.

2. Always learn

A wise lady once said:

“learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make them all yourself” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Your stack is limited. You can’t play every hand. But opportunity to learn is all around you. Study the failures and successes of others and absorb them as if your own.

Take these learnings forward and use them in your later plays.

3. Don’t wait for the perfect hand

No one can afford to sit on their stack forever, waiting for pocket rockets. You’ll eventually go bust as the blinds tick round. Hoping for the world to align and deal you perfection is a path to failure.

Small risks might yield short term loss but they will galvanise you for long term gain.

Inaction will bankrupt your spirit quicker than anything. Get started.

4. And play the odds, not your cards

Don’t complain about your cards. Life isn’t fair. But your current situation does not dictate your future state.

The most successful people in the world found strategies to minimise risk and make the most of what’s in their hand. Richard Branson started an airline with near zero upfront risk. You can win with any hand if played strategically, with timing.

Watch others. Watch the market. When you spot weakness, step forward. Make the best of where you find yourself. Turn other’s inaction into your action.

5. Don’t be afraid to go all in

You’ve bided your time. You’ve gained your experience. You understand the game and you’ve got a feel for your competition. Suddenly the moment presents itself and it’s down to you — will you have the confidence to go all in?

Have no fear. Take the plunge. Leverage everything that has come before. Don’t let the unknown hold you back. No one knows the outcome before the event. Have the confidence to go all in.

So you must…

6. …embrace bad luck…

Even the perfect hand can lose. Accept it. Don’t begrudge it. If you’re putting yourself in the path of bad luck you are closer than you think to discovering good luck.

You’ve built your stack previously. You can rebuild it again. Hold no regrets and get back in the game.

7. …as you’ll get good luck.

Eventually. Stay in the game. Luck is a balance of the odds. You’ll experience the bad. Use it to correct your course and put yourself in the way of the good.

In time, luck will shine on you.

When it does, bask in its warm glow and the bad will melt away.

…Free Spin number 8

Share your wealth.

I haven’t got much to share yet. But I’m putting myself at the tables of those who do. And this is helping me build my stack.

If you’ve ridden the storm and come out on top, go back in. Don’t sit on what you have. Stay at the table. Life’s boring when you stop. Teach other’s the lessons you have learned. You’ll continue to build your stack and may even contribute to theirs.


Life isn’t a lottery. Random acts rarely generate overnight millionaires.

Considered actions lay the path to success. Play the odds.

Few achievements exist without a bet on an uncertain outcome at some point in time. The advantage winning bets had is knowledge gained through experience earned in the game.

Embrace the risk. Play some hands. Use your stack well and lay a foundation.

You’ll need luck. Don’t we all. Worst case, you’ll find a few friends at the table. Best case, you‘ll turn your stack into a house.

Thanks for reading.

Now off to Vegas…

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