Full access to Entrepreneur for $5

Play Your Cards Right

What does poker have to do with negotiation?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

More than one high-level business negotiation has been referred to as a "poker game" populated by "poker-faced" negotiators. Unfortunately, poker may be a poor metaphor for doing business, and it might even hinder your ability to raise capital. You can enjoy poker on a regular basis and run a successful business. However, people who try to bring too many lessons from the poker table to the business table may find themselves at a disadvantage. Skeptical? Consider how poker can never be a win-win proposition.

We're all familiar with the terminology of win-win, win-lose and lose-lose. Wars, especially civil wars, typically turn into lose-lose propositions. In contrast, it's common in business circles to focus on creating win-win propositions in which both parties can win as a result of engaging in mutually beneficial exchange. Poker is an entirely different story, however. It can never, ever be a win-win proposition, because any money you win at the poker table is coming out of somebody else's pocket.

Think about it--at best, all the game of poker can do is redistribute existing wealth. It can never create new wealth, as people who are engaged in business do every day. Since it basically redistributes wealth, poker is similar to a tax system that takes money out of one person's pocket and puts it into someone else's pocket. Poker is a game of winners and losers, whereas business can be a game of winners and winners.

Excerpted from At Work With Thomas Edison: 10 Business Lessons From America's Greatest Innovator