Tony Hsieh’s Poker-to-Business Analogies

IN HIS INSPIRATIONAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Profits, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh compiled lessons he learned while playing poker that could be applied to the business world.

“I started to notice what was good poker strategy and what made for good business strategy, especially when thinking about the separation between short-term thinking (such as focusing on whether I won or lost an individual hand) and long-term thinking (such as making sure I had the right decision strategy),” writes Hsieh. The following analogies were excerpted from Hsieh’s book.

    Evaluating Market Opportunities
  • Table selection is the most important decision you can make.
  • It’s okay to switch tables if you discover it’s too hard to win at your table.
  • If there are too many competitors (some irrational or inexperienced), even if you’re the best it’s a lot harder to win.
    Financials
  • Always be prepared for the worst possible scenario.
  • Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you’re playing and the risks you’re taking.
  • Remember that it’s a long-term game, you will win or lose individual hands or sessions, but it’s what happens in the long term that matters.
    Marketing & Branding
  • Act weak when strong, act strong when weak.
  • Know when to bluff.
  • Your “brand” is important.
  • Help shape the stories that people are telling about you.
    Culture
  • You’ve gotta love the game. To become really good you have to live and sleep it.
  • Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you.
  • Be nice and make friends. It’s a small community.
  • Share what you’ve learned with others.
  • Look for opportunities beyond just the game you sat down to play. You never know who you’re going to meet, including new friends for life or new business contacts.
  • Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re trying to do more than just make money.
    Strategy
  • Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them.
  • Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high.
  • Don’t cheat. Cheaters never win in the long run.
  • Stick to your principles.
  • The players with the most stamina and focus usually win.
  • Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing.
    Continual Learning
  • Educate yourself. Read books and learn from others who have done it before.
  • Learn by doing. Theory is nice, but nothing replaces actual experience.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.






Previously published in diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for Tony Hsieh.

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