Thursday, February 3, 2011

Poker Psychology

Several years ago, I started reading books on Negotiating.  In fact, my boss made me read "Secrets of Power Persuasion for Salespeople," by Roger Dawson.  Since he read that book too, I figured I better read more books like it so I could have as much of an advantage as possible with him (he's a really smart guy).  So, I read just about everything I could find. 

I read over 100 professional journal articles about negotiating topics ranging from psychology to international negotiations in Japan and Korea.  I also read just about every negotiating book written in the last 10 years.  Since I loved this topic so much, I started digging deeper into influence psychology.  I wanted to learn how negotiations worked from the inside of people.  Then, I topped that off with books on body language (by far the most boring of everything I read).

All of this negotiation, psychology, and influence was very appealing to me.  For me, the key to it all sort of boiled down to many of my key characteristics anyways:  be nice to people, make people feel good, get them to like you, then get them to see things your way.  I just never connected the dots between that and all of that new information I read about until I read the books and practiced some.

Then, a few years ago, a good friend of mine invited me to play Texas Hold'em.  After a couple of months, I won my first tournament and had that big "holy cow" moment.  "Holy cow!  All of this stuff is related."  I started learning this stuff so I could work better with my genius boss.  Then, I realized how much more effective I could be professionally by using these principles and tactics.  But then came poker, and believe me - poker takes this stuff to another level that many business people never thought about.

In a business negotiation, 2 sides are working "together" to come to a mutually beneficial agreement.  At least that's Dawson's basic premise: win-win.  Of course, other less successful (in the long-term) negotiators only want a win-lose scenario.  That doesn't really work that well in business because you might get one deal done, but then that's it, and the word gets out that you're just an A-hole who's in it for yourself and the pool of people to negotiate future deals with gets small.

At a poker table, the negotiations are ongoing and, at times, cut throat.  You want to win this pot?  It's gonna cost you?  I'm all in.  I want those blinds.  I raise (How bad do you want them?).  I check.  Oh, you're gonna bet?  OK.  Then, I raise.

And psychology and influence are a huge factor in these moves.  Who do you want to lose to?  The A-hole or the nice guy at the table?  Well neither, but if you have to lose anyways, it may as well be to the nice guy.  Who do you have the most influence over in your daily lives?  That's easy.  You have the most influence with people you know that like you.  That doesn't at all mean that you abuse that influence ability.  But face it, it's there and it's reality.  So, at the poker table, being a nice guy can pay off over the long-run.  And being an A-hole won't work out for you.

What was my point?  I read that poker is a game of psychology played with cards.  I missed that way back when I first started reading about psychology, negotiation, and influence.  Otherwise, I probably would have started playing poker years earlier.  I love this stuff and I love poker and it works for me.

Disclaimer:  For all of you guys that I play with on Friday nights - I'm just kidding.  Don't pay any attention to me. 

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