Three Ways Poker Can Help Your Career

Learning how to play, how to make game-time calls, and taking risks are the keys to success. How do you apply this to your life, though? Read on.

Rafe Furst is a World Series of Poker champion, an angel investor, a mentor for groups like the Unreasonable Institute and All Day Buffet, and an advisor for the Decision Education Foundation. By his account he simply “connects ideas, people and resources and makes things happen faster."

With his degrees in computer science, symbolic systems, and a deep understanding of poker our conversations with Rafe kept coming back to how to make decisions. Considering how many decisions we make every day, and how directly connected our ability to make good decisions is to accomplishing anything, it's surprising how little attention the subject gets.

So, thanks to Rafe, we now offer three tangible rules that you can use not only to pick up your poker game, but also to help you get wherever you want to go—faster.

Rule #1: Use The Small Edge

Says Rafe: "Let's say there are 10,000 decisions that you make in the course of winning a poker tournament, each with different odds of a positive outcome. The key is taking very small edges (55/45 here, 60/40 there) over and over and over again. If you keep waiting for the perfect hand, you'll lose all your money in antes. Most people’s perceptions of how much of an edge they need to make a ‘correct’ play is totally off."

The daily decisions we make follow a similar pattern. We can either wait for the odds to be obviously in our favor before making a move or we can take hundreds of smaller chances where we have a small edge. So ask yourself: Are the odds of this particular job, conference, or opportunity going well better than flipping a coin? Yes? Then do it again and again and again.

Rule #2: Decisions are Different From Outcomes

We've been raised to think that good decisions always lead to good outcomes. Problem is, they don’t. If you follow the small edge rule, any decision you make that has a better than 50 percent chance is a good decision. You both win and lose, but over a long period of time, you eventually make it big.

Learning to trust that you made a good decision even when you get that bad outcome is what enables you to keep making those hundreds of small-edged decisions that lead you to win over the long haul. If you see decisions and outcomes as the same, then slowly you begin to make decisions only when you have a close-to-guaranteed chance of success, you miss out on opportunities.

As Rafe told us: "Making a good decision most of the time in poker and in life is dependent on being able to decide based on the expected value as opposed to the particular outcome." So embrace those decisions, and realize that if you have that small edge, it was a good decision regardless of the outcome.

Rule #3: It’s All One Big Game.

Sitting at a card table, dealer in front of you, can make one feel like this hand and this opportunity is going to be your last chance to make money, to play, to win. But as Rafe explains, “It’s not like this session or this game has any more importance than the one I have tomorrow or the one I had yesterday. A lot of times what happens in poker is people have the wrong mindset. They make decisions in the game as though it’s their last.”

It is this mindset of the immediate that affects the kinds of decisions we make. The feeling of a lack of time, or of limited opportunity changes the ways we make decisions subconsciously and makes it hard to determine what the correct small edge decision is

In poker, as in life, there is never just one opportunity and taking the long term view knowing that the perfect opportunity is still ahead will help you become more in tune with yourself and your ability to know what that correct small edge decision truly is.


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

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