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Winning Hand

A poker pro's tips on playing your cards right in business

Former real estate developer Barry Shulman, 59, took a gamble by coming out of retirement to purchase Card Player magazine--and it paid off big. Now a championship poker player as well as publisher and owner of Card Player, CardPlayerPress and CardPlayer.com, Shulman offers his inside tips for improving your poker game and, consequently, your entrepreneurial game:

1. Read looks and gestures. Are players leaning forward? Are they acting quickly? Poker helps you read nonverbal cues--crucial when you're deciding whether to press for that extra percent.

2. Know your limits. The mental stuff separates the good from the best. If you run into 50/50 circumstances six consecutive times and lose all six, are you capable of maintaining self-control?

3. Understand risk/reward scenarios. If you have a 1 in 13 chance of hitting an inside straight, the question is not, Can you make the straight? but, What's the upside? Make sure the reward is worth it.

4. Improve number-related skills. When the flop comes, you should know if your hand has an 80 percent or a 20 percent chance of winning.

5. Learn effective bluffing. Pretending you have something you don't often backfires. The same applies in business, so be prepared to deliver the goods.

6. Consider slow-playing techniques. Slow playing is when you have a good hand and play it as if you don't. You might achieve a greater return if you don't show the strength of your hand.

7. Grasp the risk of ruin. If your business is worth $1 million, and there's an opportunity costing $1 million with a return of only $2 million, it's not worth the risk. If it fails, the game's over.

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This article was originally published in the May 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Winning Hand.

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