Top poker players don’t usually wait for good things to come their way. They go out and make them happen. To be a winning player, you need to master skill, strategy and psychology. It’s not all about a well-timed gamble.
What does this have to do with you and your job? Research on successful players carried out by PokerStars shows that approaching the game in the right way is what separates poker stars from poker suckers. And these same traits can separate workplace high-flyers from, well, everyone else.
So start thinking like a top poker pro, and treat your career like a game – one that you intend to win.
1. Learn from your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes at work. Every day. Even you. But what are you going to do about it?
In poker, a player that doesn’t learn from their mistakes is a losing player.
“The best players are able to learn from their own mistakes,” says poker superstar Gus Hansen. “This is what makes them the best.”
So follow Gus’s advice and identify where you’re dropping the ball. Don’t deny error. Embrace it. Every time you learn from a mistake and improve your skills, you make yourself a stronger candidate for promotion.
2. Stay disciplined
Losing focus and self-discipline at work is the easiest thing in the world. Everyone gets complacent. We all lapse into bad habits.
But poker player Freddie Gasperian says, “To master poker and make it profitable, you must first master patience and discipline, as lack of either is a sure disaster.”
Freddie’s advice is clear – don’t switch off, don’t let your concentration lapse. The margins between winning and losing can be fine in any game – and a lack of discipline can bestay sharp. Be disciplined about maintaining a routine that’s conducive to good work. Focus on forming good habits – get enough sleep, stay hydrated and maintain a calm, organized working environment.
3. Keep a level head
In poker, losing your temper is worse than losing your concentration. Lack of focus can make you sloppy, sure. But losing your cool can lead to spectacularly erratic, reckless and ruinous play. (Poker players call this going ‘on tilt’.)
Poker player William J. Florence sums it up nicely: “Never to lose your temper, either with those you are playing with or with the cards.” This is a sentiment echoed by many players. “The cardinal sin in poker,” says Katy Lederer, “is becoming emotionally involved.”
No. They do not.
Often people go farther in their careers because they have confidence. They simply believe they’re the best.
Self-styled poker brat Phil Hellmuth once said, “If there weren’t luck involved, I would win every time.”
We know this can’t be true. But if Phil Hellmuth knows if he says it with enough confidence, his opponents might believe it. He might believe it. And that plays in his favour. Obviously, you don’t want to turn into an arrogant douchebag at work. But in a lot of industries, confidence is king. And if you’re not naturally a big believer in yourself? Hey, fake it until you make it.
5. Make winning decisions, not lucky decisions
Just as a broken clock tells the right time twice a day, decisions at work don’t always have to be good to, well, work.
Sometimes you get lucky at your job. That’s great. But hot streaks don’t last. To be successful in any workplace role, you should start thinking about success like a poker player. Poker players think about winning decisions, not just winning money. Making good decisions leads to something called positive expected value.
This basically means that by making objectively good decisions – rather than decisions that turn out good – you’ll be a winner in the long term. Start to think about the expected value of your decisions at work – are they positive or negative? Can you justify that you’re making a good call, or are you just hoping to get lucky?
6. Get inside your opponent’s head
Sometimes you’re not the only candidate up for a job or promotion. Sometimes, you have an opponent. If you’re in the same workspace, they might be a direct competitor you see every day.
So what can you do to maintain an edge over them? Gus Hansen says, “An essential element in playing winning poker is to force your opponents to make difficult decisions.”
Basically, he’s saying ‘don’t make it easy for your rivals’. Play hard. Play fair. But make them doubt themselves. Make them wonder about what you’re doing that works so well. Great poker players have a way of getting inside their opponent’s heads. This leads to hesitation, and second-guessing. If you can replicate a little of this psychological gameplay at work, you’ve won half the battle already.