Poker, Golf & Business = Why I Get Out of Bed

Last weekend was the Masters, I’m off to Las Vegas in a few days with a bit of poker on the agenda and the marketplace is moving with velocity so FIERCE you’d think Beyonce was in charge.

A few of you have heard my theory around the similarities between poker, golf & business and my love for each. So, I thought it would be valuable to articulate my beliefs around these and why I fight the good fight EVERY SINGLE DAY for improvement against the boredom and mediocrity of The Status Quo.

My goal is to articulate how I view these three things at a basic level and the single similarity that binds them together in my mind. To most, these three things are very different, but to me, their primary similarity is what I LOVE about each of them.


To most, poker is a game of chance, of risk, a gamble. However, most people aren’t watching when the same small group of players ends up at the final table of every poker tournament. How could this be if it’s a game of luck, of chance? The best players know that the ‘luck’ of getting the right cards is a factor, but the best players can’t simply be luckier than everyone else. Great poker players recognize their risks throughout the game, make moves in the right moment and capitalize when the odds are in their favor.

Every player gets beaten by the cards and has ‘bad luck’ some times, the best players eliminate just a few percentage points of that ‘bad luck’ by playing smart. They minimize risk and maximize reward on every single hand and come out on top over the length of a tournament.

The best players know that the game is imperfect. They recognize that they’ll lose sometimes and they don’t waste their breath complaining about a ‘bad beat’ because they know a new hand is already on its way.

Poker is imperfect, it’s gray, but no matter the outcome, there is always another hand and another chance to play a little bit better.


To most, golf is boring, a silly game for old people. However, most people aren’t watching when those at the top of the game are all alone in the middle of the fairway with a single swing to make or break their career.

Golf is a game of the mind as much as it’s a game of athletic abilities and talent. It’s really hard to hit a tiny ball onto a small putting surface from several hundred yards away. It’s even harder when everyone you’re competing against can do it as well as you can. The extra complicated part is when you add on the pressure of being out there alone, the long walk up to the ball, the crowd staring at you, the millions of dollars on the line and the knowledge that you’ve spent your entire life preparing for this moment and how easy it could all go wrong.

I was not a star athlete when I was a kid but I was okay. I had a few moments when the coach gave me the proverbial ball in the final moments; the pressure in those moments was nothing. It was in the pace of the game and it was just the next thing that happened in the game. Golf and shots in golf are like bungee jumping, the pressure and the fear come from all of the moments leading up to the moment that you jump.

But, whether the shot turns out like you want it to or not, golf is a lot like poker: it’s imperfect; it’s gray. In golf, there is always another shot, another round to try again, another chance to play a little bit better.


To most, business at the highest level is a world for the privileged, the select few families with generation after generation of the ‘old boys club’ stretching from the country club and the Ivy League all the way to the boardroom. However, most people aren’t watching as those boardrooms change and morph and Corporate America changes from a group of ten or twenty global organizations in control of everything to a fragmented global economy where anyone who can execute on a marketplace need can earn the right to compete at the highest levels.

Why? Because business is imperfect, it’s gray. The realities of the marketplace today compared to yesterday and (more importantly) tomorrow are that the consumer is fickle and carries brand loyalty only as far as they can throw it. I love business because there is always another chance to win the customer, improve the organization and improve performance just a little bit.

There is no perfect way to play a hand in poker, no perfect round of golf and no perfect business. There is always one more poker chip, one more stroke off our golf game or one more inch of business performance that could have been squeezed out if we all pushed just a little harder.

And so, I continue to fight. I hope you do too.

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