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What Poker Can Teach Us About Management and Leadership

Being a good leader is more than simply telling people what to do. We’ve all heard the saying that people leave managers rather than companies, with many people saying that they have quit a job because of issues with their manager, or the culture they provide. There are countless strategies out there that are designed to help become better workplace leaders and therefore help reduce employee turnover, but there are management lessons that can be gained from outside the world of business.

It is important to learn from multiple sources, even if they might not be an obvious choice. Many of the people who help keep the delicate mechanism of the Internet running learned those skills by coding video games and running LAN parties. Strategic thinking and risk management can be picked up from board games that emphasize those tasks. Even well-known games like poker can offer insight into emotional control and changing tactics as the situation changes.

Poker might not be an obvious choice to help people gain management skills, but there are plenty of lessons that can be learned around the card table and applied to the board room.


Being a leader of a team can be tough work. It often means being the first into the office and the last one to leave. In fact, the stress of a management position can drive good leaders out of a company, so it takes someone with a certain level of emotional and mental resilience to fill the role. There are plenty of mental skills poker teaches you, including resilience, which is a great trait for a leader. Being able to handle the stress of multiple hours of intense focus without cracking or keeping your nerve when your opponent bluffs aren’t skills that people are born with. They take hard work to develop and can help people flourish in the corporate world as well. That ability to keep going through a stressful situation without panicking or getting flustered can keep an entire project alive.


Of course, stress is inevitable in an office environment. Whether it is having difficult conversations with staff or higher-ups at a company, pushing to meet a looming deadline, or simply trying to keep your team’s morale high when things get difficult, that stress will mount on people in a leadership position. Being able to manage yourself is more than just time management; it is also about understanding how your emotional state changes based on stress and how to keep it from affecting your performance. This is a key skill for poker players, who have to deal with the highs of a lucky streak and the lows when that luck runs out. Knowing how to manage that adrenaline rush from a good hand or the frustration of several bad ones is exactly the kind of self-management that business leaders need as well.


No matter what your management style is, you need to be able to reflect on your performance with a level of honesty that can be difficult to manage. No one wants to admit when they’ve made a mistake, after all, but it is inevitable that missteps will happen. A good leader never stops learning and turning their weaknesses into strengths, just like the best poker players are always reflecting on their performances at tournaments to find where mistakes crept into their play and, more importantly, how to avoid making them in the future. That takes self-awareness and reflection on performance, but if you can do it at the poker table then you can do it in the office.

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