Live high-stakes tables and some online nosebleed limits are populated by two categories of players: poker professionals and rich businessmen. For the average poker player, a distinction is easy to make between the two categories, with some being celebrated as sharks, while others dismissed as whales. The truth is that a very thin line separates the two and the similarities between business and poker might be more numerous than one would suspect.
Many of the businessman who started to play poker professionally did so not only to satisfy their need for adrenaline rush, but also to hone their abilities. There is plenty to learn about business negotiations by simply sitting down at the poker table and watching how players react throughout the session. It is customary for those who are dealt strong starting hands to set traps for their opponents and mimic weakness in an attempt of disguising their cards.
By comparison, those who realise that they start at a disadvantage, will attempt to showcase strength and shift into a more aggressive gear. For the untrained eye, these things can go unnoticed, but for a savvy businessman, with or without poker experience it is easy to pick up on these vibes. In fact, this is more or less like rediscovering the wheel as Sun Tzu said it clearly thousands of years ago,“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”
At the poker table, players need to make use of leverage, such as being dealt pocket Kings or aces, without allowing this advantage to diminish. The goal is to capitalise on the strong starting hands and cull the competition, without scaring everyone out of the hand, before the flop, turn and river are dealt. The same concept can be applied in business, where those who have a competitive edge need to extract the most of it while it lasts and start looking for alternatives.
A successful businessman is the one who is capable of identifying a problem before it becomes an emergency and this is also a trait of poker professionals. Making sure you always have a way out, while extracting maximum value from those situations when you have leverage over your peers is just as useful at the tables as it is in a boardroom. One of the biggest mistakes that people can commit in both cases is to overplay their hand and assume that they are in a far better position than they actually are.