9 Valuable Lessons I Learned About Business and Life from Playing Poker

I always say that I learned everything about life and business from playing poker. I spent almost 3 years on the felt as my primary source of income. It was definitely a grind, and I was clearly not good enough to play professionally long term. Poker has taken much of a back seat in my life but the lessons I learned at the table will stay with me forever.

I've always believed that poker was a microcosm of life. Now, in the middle of building 7twelve, I truly understand the value of playing thousands of hands of Texas Hold'em.  Much of how I approach my business and my life has been shaped from countless hours at the table. 

Sometimes You Have to Go 'All-In'

Failing to truly commit to a situation can lead you to miss out on enormous opportunities.  When that feeling in your gut says yes,  don't second guess yourself. Put all the chips in the middle and let the cards fall as they may. True decisions take 100% commitment. Whether you feel like you met your soul-mate or are making a business decision, go with your instincts. They're almost always right.

Your Outcomes are Determined by the Quality of Your Decisions

The future is always changing, and you can't help when bad cards fall.  What you can control, however, is how well you play the hand you're dealt. You can minimize losses and maximize gains as long as you continue to make great decisions. 

Your Emotions Are Irrelevant in Tough Decisions

When your head to head in the middle of a big pot, you can't let your eyes get too wide.  You can't let your pride get in the way of letting you see how the hand has played out and what's on the table.  Your biggest decisions require zero emotion. The second you can understand and utilize the skill of emotionless decisions is the second your wins get bigger and bigger.

Taking Calculated Risks Can Lead to Huge Payouts

No matter how good your cards are, there are very few times when you're 100% guaranteed to win. The trick to business, life, and poker is to 'gamble' at the right time - when the odds are in your favor. Taking calculated risks takes patience, knowing your strength, and a hell of a lot of heart. Be sure you have all three  when you put your chips in, because in the event something doesn't work out you'll have to pick yourself up and try again if you want to succeed.

You can't lose what you don't put in the middle, but you can't win much either. - Rounders

Mindless Actions Can Lead to Huge Losses

This is easy, but best learned at a poker table. If you're accustomed to knee-jerk reactions, making moves without understanding your situation, or otherwise known as a loose-cannon, you're gonna lose. The better you understand your situation, the better chances you have to win.

You Play Your Best With a Clear Head

I used to play cards almost every single day and I realized that taking a few days off allowed me to really think about my game and play better the next time. Whether you're in a relationship or running a business, be sure you give yourself some time to breathe.  That time in the clouds will allow you to execute more effectively in the trenches. 

Life is Journey, Not One Short Day

My poker coach used to shake me because I used to treat every game like that was the last time I was ever going to play. Because of that, I didn't stand up and cash out when I should have, and I made poor decisions looking for a big score every session.  Over the course of time, I realized that poker (and now business and relationships) had to be treated like a life-long journey.  Look ahead of the moment, and map every action to support where you want to be in the future. 

Patience is the Key to Success

I used to sit around for hours without getting a decent hand to play -- and yes, it was definitely frustrating. The pots weren't big, the action was slow -- what poker players like to call 'a grind'. What I discovered over time was that patience allowed me to be in better situations to invest and thus increasing my chances to win.

How do you learn patience? Understand that every micro-decision you make, like whether to play a hand or not, is leading you toward that end goal if you make those decisions correctly.

Auditing Your Performance Will Make You Better Over Time

After every session, I'd recite hands and situations as if I were still sitting at the table. Collaborating with my coach and being honest with my mistakes (because I knew I made them) allowed me to play better in future sessions.  Everyone makes mistakes, and no one plays perfectly but the ones who truly take the time to learn from their mistakes are the ones that win over time. 

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