Why Successful Poker Players and Successful Business Owners are Alike

The phenomenal growth of poker over the past decade or so has completely erased any false concepts concerning professional poker players.

Today professional poker players are held in the same esteem as professional athletes, CEO’s and movie stars.  The top tournament money winner of all time Daniel Negreanu has appeared in movies and even a Katy Perry music video.  All time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Helmuth appears in a US television commercial for a hamburger takeaway restaurant.  Danish pro Gus Hansen was named one of People magazines Sexiest Men in the World.

This was not always the case. Doyle Brunson, who is now one of the most respected men in poker, once faked an illness to avoid winning a WSOP championship to avoid the publicity and the “stigma” of being a professional poker player.

The general public and the media have realised what poker players have long known; professional poker is a business and the skills developed at the table are the same skills that are necessary to be a successful entrepreneur or CEO.  It is not just happenstance that Bill Gates, Richard Nixon and other US presidents, and dozens of the world’s most successful business men all played poker.

The shared skills of a successful business owner and a successful poker player are numerous.  In fact Harvard Professor Charles Nesson includes strategic poker thinking in his curriculum for business students.


  • Knowing the market – Poker players select their tables and events carefully. They are aware of the competition they will face and the amount of their bankroll (capital) they will need to invest.  That is no different than knowing the competitors in a business sector and their exploitable weaknesses.
  • Knowledge and preparation – Poker players spend almost as much time studying the game as they do playing the game.  Being a successful poker player takes more than just knowing the rules of the game.  Just like successful people in any other business, the players read books and articles on the game, discuss the game with others, and even seek out mentors.
  • Develop a style – Every successful business and every successful poker player has its own unique style.  It is almost impossible to achieve long term success in either arena without a style that sets you apart from your competitors.
  • Know the Odds – At its heart, poker is a game of mathematics.  In any business, the owner must have a strong knowledge of the probabilities.  Successful poker players and successful business owners take a long-term view and base their decisions on a strong mathematical foundation.
  • Risk vs. Reward – Overly cautious poker players and overly cautious businesses are not usually successful.   By the same token, those that are blindly aggressive are prone to failure.  Success in both areas requires taking calculated risks and knowing which ones are most likely to achieve favorable results.
  • Patience – Few poker players or businesses achieve success overnight.  Having the patience to wait for the most profitable opportunity and having the knowledge to capitalize on it are key qualities.

There is one other aspect shared by successful poker players and business owners, though it isn’t a skill.  Those that are successful in either love their work.  It is almost impossible to succeed in an endeavor that you don’t enjoy.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.