Home Startups What Can Start-Up Business Owners Learn From Poker Players?

What Can Start-Up Business Owners Learn From Poker Players?


Getting into the world of business for a start-up can be a challenge, and new business owners quickly realize that it is a cutthroat world in which only the strong survive. Indeed, according to research, 90 percent of start-ups fail. In order to have a better chance of being in the 10 percent, business owners need to have a number of key attributes to help them get ahead. A lot of these can be learnt from professional poker players, who also have to battle in a tough environment to be the best. To better understand what is required, let’s take a look at some of the key aspects of winning at poker. Understand these things, and then apply them to business to give your start-up a fighting chance.

Aggressive Decision Making – Taking Emotions out of Decisions

Caption: Aggression can be a good way to dominate the table, and the business world.

Business is a dog-eat-dog world, and aggression, or more assertiveness, is a key attribute that businesses need in order to survive. It is also important to take emotion out of decisions and make choices based on logical reasoning.

In poker tournament strategy, an aggressive approach can be a good way to get ahead in the early rounds. According to experts, poker is all about timed, focused aggression. In fact, if players aren’t willing to bet a lot of chips at certain times, they are unlikely to go deep in a tournament. In variants like Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha, the best time to play aggressively is when you have a good position on the table and a solid opening hand such as a pocket pair. You want to get value from these hands, but you also want to get people off weaker hands pre-flop so it’s easier to gauge the remaining players’ ranges when the cards come down.

Start-up business owners need to show aggression and should look to muscle the competition away from their potential clients.
Failure as a Means to Learn

No matter how good you are at poker, the cards will go against you from time to time. In the poker business, players refer to the anger caused by suffering injustice in a round as going on tilt or getting tilted. Tilt is inevitable, and it’s the way that professional players deal with it that separates them from amateurs. Phil Helmuth is a prime example of an angry poker player who has been known to blow up when luck goes against him. However, despite showing signs of anger on the outside, he rarely lets this detract from his optimum strategy. This is why he is considered to be one of the best of all time.

Caption: Martin Jacobson bounced back from failure to win the WSOP.

A lot of start-up businesses have to deal with initial failure, and it’s the way they handle it that determines whether they survive. Some just don’t have the motivation to carry on after an initial upset. Martin Jacobson’s story is one that should encourage stuttering start-ups. The 888poker ambassador failed miserably the first time he took on the World Series of Poker and was eliminated in the third hand at the 2008 Main Event. Some players would have let this failure get to them, but the Swedish star used it as an opportunity to learn and grow. He bounced back with a vengeance in 2014 and triumphed in the Main Event, bagging $10 million in the process.

Risk Taking

Risk taking is a key component to being successful in poker. If you sit around waiting for the nuts and only betting when you have the strongest hand, then the game comes purely down to luck. You may find yourself running like a god one day, but the chances of that happening in every tournament are slim. Just look at the 2006 WSOP winner Jamie Gold. He picked up $12 million by being the last man standing in that tournament, but has only made $67,000 more on top of that in his career. In that competition, the cards kept falling in his favor. But many pros would agree that his level of skill is lacking.

Poker players and businesspeople need to know how to take calculated risks in order to win more competitions or business contracts. An example in poker would be to bet big on an open-ended straight draw before the river. You have a few outs in case your bet is matched, and more often than not it will get weaker hands to fold. It’s important to assess what other players could be holding as well. For instance, if the board is paired in that same scenario, it is much riskier to bet big because someone could be holding a full house. Businesspeople often need to make speculative investments in certain areas of the company in the early stages. It can seem risky, but it’s necessary. Investing in the right areas can yield big returns further down the line.


Caption: Bluffing is an essential skill in poker. It can also be applied to business.

Bluffing isn’t exactly the same as lying, but it is used as a way to deceive opponents. The concept of bluffing is designed to make the other players think you have a stronger hand than you do. It is an essential aspect of the game and can also be considered as part of the aggressive approach. Business owners should never try to deceive their clients, but they could use bluffing techniques to make their company seem bigger or better than it is. By doing this, they could encourage more people to invest in the business. This could be done through only revealing the sales figures from the strongest months or selecting some other favorable statistics to show to investors.

A final point to make is that poker players always take time to get to know their opponents. By assessing what their opponents do in certain situations, good players know when the best times to be aggressive and take risks are. Businesspeople should do their research about the competition, and figure out ways to get the better of them.