How business is like poker

Business can be a lot like poker sometimes.

Many people take the wrong approach to poker and gambling.

When gamblers are losing money, they will keep playing to try to win back their losses. I see poker players spend hours at the table, lose stacks and stacks of money, and have no idea why.

And when people are winning, they’ll “quit while they’re ahead.” They’ll win a little bit and be satisfied with having a few more dollars in their pocket.

I think that’s totally backwards. Maybe we can call it the “gambler’s paradox.”

When you’re down, you should get up from the table, take a break, and gather your thoughts to understand why you’re losing. Maybe even call it a day.

And when you’re up, either your luck is running hot or you’re doing something right, or both. So you should ride that wave as long as you can.

You tend to see this in business as well.

When things aren’t working in business, you may see people stick to the same strategy, pump more money into advertising, and use brute force in an attempt to make things better.

Instead, they should take a step back, analyze where things are going wrong, and adjust accordingly.

When business is going well, many companies rest on their laurels, slow down, and stop innovating.

This allows more nimble and innovative startups to enter and win markets.

When things are bad, take some time off to refresh and rethink.

When things are good, put the pedal to the metal and keep moving fast and innovating.

Don’t fall prey to the gambler’s (or business’) paradox.

What do you think about this paradox? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

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