10 Things You Can Easily Learn from Playing Poker

Francine Thornhill
7 min readFeb 27, 2019


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Card bluffing, or more commonly known as poker, is no more played behind closed doors. From smoked rooms to mainstream TV channels and online gambling networks, poker has come a long way in the last few decades. However, when it comes to comparing poker with real-life situations such as business, marriage, career and education, not many people are of the same notion.

Players tend to keep poker separate from other parts of their lives. Nevertheless, during the final few years, some scholars and researchers at Harvard University are studying the psychology of poker playing. They are also studying the mindset of players to understand better, teach, and analyze critical thinking. That has resulted in the shape of research papers helping students on how to create better-winning positions in real lives.

We can compare poker with entrepreneurship, but before moving forward, here are some points on why I think that gambling has a lot more in common to do with your real life:

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1) Poker Is Absolutely a Risky Game

Poker is a risky game and so is any part of your life. That includes starting a new business, finding a better job, getting graduated, affording a family with kids with limited income, buying cars and properties, and a whole lot more.

2) Alert, There Are No Guaranteed Outcomes

There are no precise results of winning unless you know what is going on in your opponent’s mind. Just like with any other situation during your life, you need to make choices, at times the least risky ones. The same is true with gambling.

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3) Consistent Profits Do Not Always Mean You Are Winning

Starting, managing and running a business for continued growth and long-term profits is a daunting task. There is no clear future outcome whether a business will be profitable or shut down in the first few months of its inception. The same is true with poker. You need to take baby steps and start with making the least risky decisions first and then move on to riskier decisions.

4) Danger, Poker Is an Astoundingly Addictive Game

Gambling is a highly addictive game. Once you keep winning, you will have the tendency of reinvesting all that you have to win more. When this occurs, there are tremendous possibilities of losing more than winning. In business, when you are always getting profitable, you also have the tendency to reinvest to earn more profits. That could be in the case of diversification or setting up a new branch. However, as it may seem, a slight mistake in strategy or a wrong future outlook could mean disastrous results for your business.

When you are graduating, you are not sure which field might suit you the best. You need to select skills that are most in-demand shortly. The same is true with poker. You need to study other players and their hand movements to know what could be their next moves and what moves you need to learn to mitigate your risks.

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5) Never Forget to Calculate and Reduce Risks Accordingly

Throughout your life, you are always weighing the pros and cons of choices to make attainable decisions. Each decision involves assessment, opportunity cost, and natural instincts.

When you are all-in, you know that there will be risks involved. However, such a decision is only taken by a smart poker player, just like smart entrepreneurs. When you are buying a stock, commodity or putting all your eggs in one basket, you know it that the odds are deeply in your favor, or you are just another emotional person losing everything that you have.

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6) You Have to Deal with Pressure

In a poker tournament, you become surrounded by a group of players that continue to drop out each day as they lose. In the end, only one player wins. Moreover, guess who? No, not your average uncle Tom with a bear in his hand wearing a half naked T-shirt, but instead, a very smart player who had the ability to deal with mounting pressure and keeps his cool even in the toughest of situations.

Take the example of Leonardo DiCaprio. He always gave a stellar performance but never got an Oscar. He never gave up either. He passed with flying colors in his outstandingly brilliant performance in “The Reverent” that finally earned him the much-needed Oscar award.

If we compare it in our real lives, we see entrepreneurs with the nerves of steel only come out victorious. How many startups do you see every day on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other crowdfunding websites? Despite the tall claims, many startups fail to generate a single penny in revenue, get bankrupt and eventually shut down their doors claiming millions of dollars in seed funding from their donors. However, which startups become successful?

Only smart entrepreneurs that burn the midnight oil bear the daunting pressure of competition. They know that they could lose all of it if it does not go the right way, end up getting big wins. If they lose their focus, they lose their company, simple!

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7) The Harsh Truth Between Winning and Losing

In Vegas, how many poker players need to learn a skill to win a game? The answer is none, and still, we see only hundreds of thousands of players playing poker and trying their lucks in winning. Only a handful come out victorious.

The same is true in real life. While the number of businesses that startup is in the thousands, only a select few end up winning and managing a successful business.

8) Be a Better Leader than the Best

Leaders are made, not born. Alternatively, at least that is how I think. Playing poker teaches you a precious lesson in life; that is becoming a better leader. The leader’s job is to gather everyone toward working for the same vision. While this may seem very easy, it is a highly difficult task.

Business ethics and leadership are smart and sophisticated skills that take time and practice to learn.

Poker players are smart, and they can read others on the table. That includes not only reading people but also tracking their behaviors, noticing patterns and predicting their future moves.

In real life, entrepreneurs need to analyze their competition, learn new skills, and observe the market patterns for any expected and unexpected competitor moves. Better winning is also correct for anyone to become successful in any part of his or her life.

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9) Important, You Have to Become an Optimistic Person

Playing well in any field whether be it poker, soccer, football or even education requires a healthy dose of optimism. You need first to have a solid belief in yourself that you will be winning. However, on the other hand, you still need to learn from your failures. If you have become connected with the perfect maneuvers, you can still end up losing big time. With that said, you need to get yourself up and start over with a solid heart.

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10) Always Improving and Constantly Learning Is Helpful

It does not matter who you are and what you do, you need to constantly uplift your skills, knowledge, and education to be a better player. That applies to any part of your life. Poker players, entrepreneurs, and salaried people always know that to be in the game, they need to learn and improve themselves continuously.

Poker players attend seminars, indulge in online discussions, and read books to improve their game. The same goes for an employee and an employer. They need to attend seminars, attend workshops, and participate in learning environments. If you become positioned rightly, you will capitalize on many opportunities by learning and improving yourselves.

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Remarkably, from Hero to Zero and Back from the Ashes

With educated guessing, you can still predict the outcome of your decision, but that is not always the case that we see in our real lives, even in poker. Poker players may go from 90% to 10% favorite with the turn of a single hand. Expert poker players know this and change hands without realizing the amount of investment that they have made in the pot. Comparing it with today’s harsh economic realities; you will find that while a business strategy is working out well, a sudden change in regulation, a new law imposed by the government, or a sudden price hike may turn to be unfortunate situations.