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Five Ways Poker Prepares You for Entrepreneurship (and Vice Versa)

  • Paul RatchfordPaul Ratchford
online poker laptop computer

You’ve likely heard that poker and entrepreneurship have many parallels, and you've heard right. As the cofounder of GoFetch, I can tell you first hand that founding a company and playing poker are both incredibly challenging and can be highly rewarding if you find success. Here are five parallels that I've found in my experience.

1. It's A Mental Rollercoaster Ride

Startups and poker are tough to deal with mentally. In fact, its hard to think of another two jobs that are more of a rollercoaster, both mentally and emotionally. Where else can you experience the thrill of winning or losing hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in a single hand or deal?

I can tell you two great places to experience the ups are at the poker table and in the boardroom. If you thought getting coolered is tough, try walking out of a pitch with a venture capitalist who rips to shreds something you have worked on for weeks, months, or perhaps even years. But I’m still going to give poker the cake when it comes to the emotional upheaval it causes for one simple reason: Poker more frequently feels terribly unfair and maddening.

2. Adapt or Die (Disruption Is the Name of the Game)

Nobody cares how the game was played five years ago. Great, you made some money in the early 2000s playing online poker like a nit. Does that make you a winner today? No. Same goes in the world of entrepreneurship. Nobody cares what you did months or years ago. The culture is to care about today. What can you bring to the table right now.

At GoFetch, we set out to change the way dogs are cared for, and we continue to pursue that vision on a daily basis. The cool thing about early-stage companies is they can pivot quickly, disrupt much larger entities, and ideally navigate nimbly through troubled waters. Much like the poker world, change is constant, and winners tend to find a way to turn turmoil into opportunity.

3. Logic is Critically Important

In the early stages of business building, a lot of important business and product decisions are made. Early on, companies are often seeking a good product-market fit and struggling along in the survival stage. Later, when product-market fit has been achieved and more established processes are in place, fewer critical decisions will need to be made. This makes decisions of paramount importance in the early stages, and startups need a strong logic-driven core team to help propel them forward.

Likewise, in poker, if you can’t logically reason through a hand, you’re probably not cut out to be a player. Cards can play tricks on your mind during upswings and downswings, and a logical reasoned approach to the game is critically important.

4. Focus Only On the Things That Matter

Noise, noise, noise. There is so much noise and chirp in both poker and entrepreneurship. Everybody has an opinion on your business and everybody knows how to play your hole cards better than you. It's important to strike a balance between tuning out the chirp and being closed-minded to outside ideas. If you strike that balance and focus only on the things that matter, success will follow.

5. Staying Level-Headed and Cool Under Pressure

There is nothing like getting two-outed over and over again at the highest stake levels in the largest of pots to drive a poker player crazy. If that isn’t enough to throw you off your game, perhaps getting two-outed repeatedly at critical moments of poker tournaments will. Every poker player has their own tipping point, so to speak. In those moments, staying clear-headed and making appropriate decisions can be challenging.

The same can be said for when you are building a business. You’ll encounter an intense pressure cooker which may push you to the limit. In these moments, its critical to stay at the top of your game.

Have you found other parallels between poker and entrepreneurship? Share them in the comments below. Oh, did I forget to mention that a little bit of luck never hurt either?!

Paul Ratchford is the founder of GoFetch, a Vancouver-based technology in the pet services space, and is the author of Exploitive No Limit Holdem and ThePokerCapitalist.




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