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What Bluffing, Folding and Betting Can Teach You About Entrepreneurship

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Just like in poker, entrepreneurship isn't about winning a single victory. It's about coming out on top in the end. I should know, as I'm just back from Las Vegas where I participated in the World Series of Poker.

After more than 24 hours of Texas Hold'em, I raked in the chips and watched them float away. But I didn't walk away empty-handed. Here are the top five lessons I learned from my experience as a poker fan and how it meshes with my life as an entrepreneur:

1. You’re always playing the long game.

While James Bond movies have you believe every hand in poker is full of tense betting and spirited bluffs, you’ll find professional-level poker is really a game of attrition. I spent most of my time folded and watching how other players dealt with James Bond-esque situations rather than participating in them myself.

Bottom line: Like poker, business isn’t about the short term. Getting lucky on one hand isn't a strategy for longevity. Taking a risk may offer an immediate payoff, but the odds are against you when trying the same tactics next time around.

2. Execute decisions under pressure.

Poker is a decisions game. You need to know when to bluff, when your opponent is bluffing and when your opponent thinks you’re bluffing. And you have to figure this out in a very tense environment. To do this, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the game -- practice, study and failure are the only ways to get better.

Bottom line: School can only take you so far but once you graduate, you will need to figure out things on your own. As a young entrepreneur, you will be the one making decisions and often times you will feel like you are in a pressure cooker. Before you jump the gun, make sure you have all knowledge about the various choices and reach out to others that have been in similar situations.

Related: 7 Ways to Weigh Your Start-Up Risks – and Reduce Them

3. The talkers get knocked out quick.

I’ve always suspected that the talkers in poker are overcompensating for something and after my experience I know for sure. Every time the 10-gallon-hatted peacock would give me a snide jab, I’d throw him back a pleasant smile and keep my mouth shut. He ended up losing.    

Bottom line: Talk is about as cheap as old clichés are about talk being cheap. I’m not a talker, and my brother and I pride ourselves on skipping the lip-flapping for getting stuff done. Instead of talking a big game, show it. You will build a reputation for being honest and dependable.

4. Sometimes the odds beat you.

In the end, I went bust. I lost fair and square, but I know I exhibited perfect play throughout the tournament, as I’ve spent years learning poker the same way I learned how to build new businesses.

Bottom line: Even the best ideas go sour. Sometimes you know in your heart that you’ve done everything right and things still go belly up. This just means that you’re going to take what you learned and jump into your next venture that much better equipped.

Related: Divide and Conquer: What War Can Teach You About Business

5. Have a support system.

My brother Adam is my partner in everything and during my first shot at the World Series of Poker, it was no different. He made sure that I was fed, hydrated and in peak form through every step of the tournament. When I had a bad beat, Adam had my back.

Bottom line: When you’re an entrepreneur, having someone with you through thick and thin can improve your game on every level. A strong support system through friends, mentors and family will help you learn from your failures and be there to relish in your successes.

Learned any business tips from poker or other games? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.


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