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#entrepreneurfail Entrepreneurs Poker


I played my first poker game recently. Although my hope for beginner’s luck didn’t pan out, I learned a lot during that game and saw many parallels to starting a company. And the more I understood poker, the more it made sense as to why poker was declared a game of “skill”, instead of a game of pure chance. Entrepreneurship is much more like poker than other games in that:

  1. Success is the combination of luck and skill.
  2. The more rounds you play (the more experience you have), the better you know yourself and how you react to certain situations.
  3. Even if you do not have the best hand, you can come out as the winner.
  4. Bluffing is a mandatory – sometimes you have to act as if you have the best hand even if you don’t necessarily have it (yet).
  5. You have to know the rules really well. Similarly, to start a business you have to know the industry.
  6. After every round, you may have to alter your strategy as new cards are revealed.
  7. You have to learn the habits of your opponents (and competitors).
  8. Every round is a new round – very little carries over.
  9. Know the risks and probability of success when you need to make a decision.
  10. Small things can completely change the whole strategy
  11. You have to know when to fold – sometimes it’s ok to give in if your hand you’ve been dealt won’t win.
One of our readers, Mayank Batra, offered a few more similarities between entrepreneurship and poker:
  1. You cannot win every round – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. You have to be patient when you lose a round – aggressive actions will not help
  3. Number and statistics matter as much as your gut.
  4. Play the cards you have OR you can also play the people opposite to you. Only having the best cards would never allow for success.

The #entrepreneurfail comes in when entrepreneurs decide to go all-in too quickly. Yes, you have to think positively and you have to work and act as if there is no other option except success. But, liquidating your retirement accounts, assets, savings, and family jewels is a bit too hasty especially if you don’t have market validation yet. For the same reason, it’s extremely important to know when to walk away. And if you play your cards right, you always have a good chance of winning the pot!

Poker enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, in the comments below, tell me where I’m wrong and where I’m right in my comparison! 

This comic was originally created by Kriti Vichare for #entrepreneurfail: Startup Success.

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Kriti Vichare Kriti Vichare

  • You didn’t happen to read The All In Startup by Diana Kander before you wrote this? She’s at the Kauffman Foundation and her book uses the poker analogy. Great book – check it out: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JUUZP92?btkr=1

  • Raj Sark

    Haha, just saw this and incidentally last evening was discussing with our Co-Founder the parallels of Start-up life and gambling! Watch the movie 21 on MIT Blackjack – good stuff!