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Leaders Can Benefit from Adopting a Pro Gambler’s Mindset


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Leaders are people who learn not only from the business sphere but can soak up knowledge from people from all walks of life, particularly those people who have had professional successes in non-traditional ways. Pro gamblers walk outside the bounds of “regular life,” becoming wealthy in a field where the odds are typically stacked against you.

To make it as a pro gambler, you need tenacity, a well-thought-out risk appetite, and the ability to read others well to know when to shoot your shot. Here are some other ways that the lessons of a pro gambler can be an asset as a leader.

Know when to take a risk on your future

Have a risky business move you’re weighing up? It might pay to follow a seemingly wacky path. Just ask Huck Seed, WSOP’s 2020 Hall of Fame inductee. Seed’s game is poker, which over the years has amassed the Vegas local a net worth of $4 million. While he was originally a star basketball player in high school and going into uni, once he got into poker he dropped out of studying electrical engineering to concentrate on the game full time. Could basketball make you a millionaire? Highly unlikely. Electrical engineering? Probably not. But if you’re good at poker? Sure.

The same can be said in business. While you may have a number of different ideas about where you might run towards in business, if you come across a lucrative field that you’re good at - it might just pay to take that risk and jump in. Just because others may be wary doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad idea. You can always come back to other things later if it doesn’t work out.




Learn how to read people

There is a reason why having a “poker face” is such a big deal in the game. People’s minuscule behaviors that would otherwise go unnoticed - having a flush in your hand and keeping your cool besides a slight tap of your pinkie finger - can give other players the edge if they know how to read them. Reading people’s verbal and nonverbal cues, whether it’s for a good hand, or a bluff, makes for a good poker player.




The same goes if you are a leader. If you are chatting to employees about product performance, if you are a good reader, you may know when they are just telling you what you want to hear. When looking at strategic partnerships, you will be able to get a good gauge on the competition. In talks with customers or clients, you’ll be able to see how they really feel about your business.

It’s all a matter of probabilities

Why don’t professional gamblers play roulette, except if they feel like having a bit of fun? Because the probability of a win is only ever as high as 46.37% and you can’t influence that probability even one little bit. A professional poker player could have a losing hand but bluff their way into a win - pushing up the probability of a win when you know the game and environment.

The main thing that business leaders can learn from gambling legends is their ability to understand probability on a fundamental level which allows them to hedge their bets properly. As a leader, you should always be walking into business-critical decision-making with a probabilistic outlook. Trying a new project management system without evaluating the market for best fit increases the probability of the system failing. Hiring an IT salesperson in your technology company gives a lower probability of staff turnover than hiring a gun construction salesperson (but the construction salesperson may lead to better profits if they end up staying). It’s a numbers game, so make sure to do due diligence.




Don’t cheat the system – you’ll end up losing eventually

Famous poker star Phil Ivey found out the hard way that finding loopholes in a game to help you win might just bring you down instead. While Ivey has previously won ten World Series of Poker bracelets, it was Baccarat that ended up being his mistake. After learning of an “edge sorting” advantage - identifying cards by the patterns on their backs, he bagged almost $20m at casinos. However, once the casinos learned what was up they dragged him to court where he had to return his wins, his reputation tarnished.

As a leader, if you identify grey areas where loopholes can be found to gain a competitive edge then it’s better to just avoid them. You risk losing money and time in the courts as well as a great deal of reputational damage if you play that game.

Keep tabs on your bankroll

A professional gambler always knows how much they have in the kitty and how much is too much to stake. For instance, in sports betting, it’s recommended never to stake more than 5% of your bankroll on any one bet. The figure is around 4-5% for very confident bets but decreases from there.

You can take the same mindset across to business. You should always be aware of the state of your business liquidity as well as your debt capacity. When you are investing in new infrastructure, staff, or other strategic investments, be aware of the cost of the investment as compared to the risk involved in the purchase, too. Always know what your money situation is like and don’t ever put all your eggs in one basket.


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