Team Building - Poker As A Team Building Game For Business

Many of the world's most successful business managers have long recognised the value of the transferable skills that can be learnt at a poker table.  When playing poker you need to be able to make split-second decisions based on your ability to "read" your opponents.  To win you have to learn what makes your opponents tick, how they respond to different tactics, what decisions they make in the game and why.  The key is to understand your opponent, and not to assume that s/he thinks the same way that you do.  You need to know when to push home an advantage; when behaving confidently will bring results and when behaving passively will.  You have to learn how to mask your weaknesses and play bad hands to maximum effect, and how not to lose profit by showing a strong hand too early.  Sometimes you want your opponent to think they're winning when they're actually losing, and other times you want them to feel weak even though they are strong.  You need to manage your bankroll, and choose when to invest your limited resources and when to cut your losses.  Above all you need to learn to balance risk verus reward.  Good players don't try and get lucky, they wait until the odds are in their favour and at that point they go for the jugular.  Poker teaches you to be aggressive, not passive, but also to be highly selective rather than wild and unfocused.  In all manner of business negotiations, investment analysis decisions, and sales environments, these are key skills in any business partner's armoury.  In the words of Bobby Baldwin (CEO of Mirage Resorts) "The only difference between a boardroom table and a poker table is the shape." 

Transferable Skills Learnt Through Poker - What The Top Entrepreneurs Say

Mary McDonnell, the president of Geneva Trading in Chicago, says the company wouldn't dream of employing someone who didn't show some poker prowess. "It is unlikely that we would hire someone who didn't show good proficiency at a GameBoy or online poker or similar video-type game where hand-to-eye coordination is important" she said. "It's the discipline of not getting too emotional about your transactions, and also the mathematical ability to keep track of numbers, as in card counting. Online poker practice helps traders to read the markets correctly. It helps to determine if people are bluffing, trying to make the market move one way or another" (BBC Online).

"Desperation at a poker table is just like desparation in a business deal... It's important to know how important the deal is to the other guy, and the more important it is to him and the more information you have, the better the deal you can cut for yourself."- Larry Flynt, millionaire publisher (New York Times).  

"There are many things you can overcome in business by working hard.  Poker is the same thing.  It requires learning the odds and knowing the fundamentals.  College business schools should teach poker in their classrooms." - Barry Shulman, Seattle condominium developer (American City Business Journals).

"The most important lesson I've learned from poker is when to walk away from a deal, even if it seems tempting.... You have to be willing to throw away the cards before you get hurt" - David Rabin, co-owner of Union Bar and Lotus, NY, and V-bar nightclub in Vegas (New York Times).

Wendeen Eolis, chief executive of Eolis International Group, who have advised Gov. George E. Pataki of New York and Rudolph Giuliani amongst others, says she regularly applies theories learnt at the poker table to business and political strategy. She even conducts a seminar for her clients on how overrated bluffing is as a strategy in both business and poker. "There is an absolute parallel between the poker room and the boardroom for me as a woman. Often, all I have to do is exceed the expectations to make a home run", (New York Times).

Charles Addlington, Chief Executive of Phonenix Biotechnology, says his development of poker skills helped him forge the discipline to get to the top in business.  As well as running a company in the forefront of cancer research, he is also one of the founders of the World Series of Poker (San Antonio Express).

Poker is now so widely played amongst MBA students that there is an annual MBA Poker Championships.  Anderson School Of Management are current champions.

Attorney courses and lawyer courses often make reference to poker skills to help students learn how to cross-examine witnesses and present a compelling case summary.

Business Management Skills Learnt Through Poker - What The Experts Say

"...One final note on George W. Bush’s management style and his Harvard Business School background does not derive from the classroom, per se. One feature of life there is that a subculture of poker players exists. Poker is a natural fit with the inclinations, talents, and skills of many future entrepreneurs.  A close reading of the odds, combined with the ability to out-psych the opposition, leads to capital accumulation in many fields, aside from the poker table. By reputation, the President was a very avid and skillful poker player when he was an MBA student. One of the secrets of a successful poker player is to encourage your opponent to bet a lot of chips on a losing hand. This is a pattern of behavior one sees repeatedly in George W. Bush’s political career. He is not one to loudly proclaim his strengths at the beginning of a campaign. Instead, he bides his time, does not respond forcefully, a least at first, to critiques from his enemies, no matter how loud and annoying they get. If anything, this apparent passivity only goads them into making their case more emphatically. " - Thomas Lifson (The American Thinker).

On the subject of Harvard business school - Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates claims he spent more time playing poker at Harvard than he did attending classes!

Professor Mark Griffiths is an expert in gambling at Nottingham Trent University. According to Professor Griffiths "Poker-playing managers will be used to asking, 'did I play that right?', and equally are likely to be more objective in reviewing the decisions they make. They may be more pragmatic than others, as playing with the cards you have is a winning strategy in poker. And top poker players are insatiable in their desire to win. Being this focused is an important leadership skill in the workplace. Then there's the art of deception, not normally seen as a desirable skill, but in poker it's all part of the game. After all, in many workplace situations the ability to get away with white lies, to save face or be diplomatic, or to smooth over or disguise mistakes and errors, is a big advantage."

Employee Motivation and Employee Development Through Poker

It's not just that playing poker develops key business skills- it is also tremendous fun! The rules can be learnt in just a few minutes, and every employee starts each game on an entirely equal footing - no matter what their status in the workplace, each player has an equal chance of winning. The poker table is rapidly replacing the golf course as the place where business people meet during lunch breaks or after work. Numerous work places are discovering that poker clubs and poker leagues offer a chance for employees to meet up, socialise, and chat with one another in a fun and exciting environment.  This improves employee morale and helps employees bond together to work more effectively as a team.  

Teambuilding Ideas

Nothing bonds a team together like a little friendly rivalry. Once you have established your workplace poker league, you can divide different departments, different office floors etc... and encourage them to play against each other to see who comes out on top. If you want, you can even challenge the employees of rival firms and pit, for example, your sales staff against their's. This gets all your employees rooting for one another in an instant!

Some workplaces run clubs that meet in local casinos, and many others have started online clubs where employees gather at a particular online poker room table to play with one another. Because online poker rooms can be accessed from anywhere in the country (or indeed anywhere in the world), staff from different locations or branches can all meet in a way they simply couldn't otherwise. Employees who would like to meet up outside of work but who can't because of child-care or other commitments can also finally join the fun and bond with their co-workers. Poker rooms allow users to chat in real time, a little like "instant messaging", and allow users to add their co-workers and friends to a "buddy list" which automatically tells them which table a colleague is playing at. So it is easy for everyone to meet up and have a virtual chat, no matter what their physical location or personal circumstances. The software is completely free, and players can play for "play money" rather than real money so nobody need feel excluded because they don't want to risk their hard earned wages. No matter what jurisdiction you are in, there are no legal issues associated with playing poker for play money. So what better way to improve employee morale, motivate staff and simultaneously benefit from the transferable skills being acquired, than starting an online poker club or poker league at your workplace? If you like the idea, we have put together a page that walks you through the process, and a free E-Book that you can send to your friends or co-workers :

How to start a poker league

Golden Rule Of Poker
Reputable Poker Sites