Poker, like life, has promises and rewards

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First, recognize that poker is a microcosm – a miniature version of the “game” of life.

The issues we face in life – the risks and uncertainties, as well as the promises and rewards – have their counterparts in the game of poker. There is much we can learn from playing poker that can be applied to our lives, to be more successful and enjoy a happier life.

For those who would argue poker involves gambling, and hence cannot be relevant to life, I would point out that risk-taking while seeking a reward, with an uncertain result – that’s “gambling” – applies to so many activities in both poker and life. Gambling is inherent in our daily lives.

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Using our skills, we can trim the luck factor, while reducing the degree of risk vs. the potential reward. Risk/benefit analyses are based on this concept. In poker, we seek a Positive Expectation (pot odds greater than the card odds); in business, it’s called a return on investment (ROI). Reducing the risk while increasing the the potential payoff requires skill. Successful business executives are highly compensated for such skills.

Education and training are essential in developing the skills needed for success, be it poker or life. That’s why so many young people seek college educations, athletic teams spend so much time in practice and our soldiers train.

Players can learn from reading all sorts of poker publications, including GamingToday; many books are available; my ClaudePepper Seniors Poker Group learns from our classes and seminars (often presented by poker celebrities). Discussions with poker buddies offers an opportunity to explore different viewpoints and experiences. The more education and training, the more success you can expect – be it at the poker table, on the athletic field, in the business office, or in your family life.

Skill in making the “right” decisions is essential in both poker and life. For example, successful businessmen – and winning poker players – know how to get full value and thereby optimize profits.

At the poker table, the production floor or wherever, gathering pertinent information is essential to making wise decisions. Winners glean as much pertinent information as possible before acting. There’s the old adage: “Act in haste; repent at leisure.”

There are many ways to gain valuable information. Tells (body language in life) involve inadvertent motions, voice tones, and facial expressions that can provide strong clues about your opponent’s hand and his action plan – information that can be vital in selecting your tactics during that hand. And, of course, this applies to life as well as the game of poker.

In poker, we want to know what kind of player each opponent is: tight or loose, passive or aggressive, deceptive (often bluffs and check-raises), a calling-station, timid (easily bluffed out). “Reading” their hands also can help you to win more often. The same applies to your life activities and relations, as you must interact with many others practically every day of your life.

Self-discipline is perhaps the most important trait one can develop to succeed in both poker and life. It takes time and effort to gain and improve this persoanal attribute. In “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners” that I co-authored with and Dr. Daniel Abrams, there are four rules with which it would pay you to familiarize yourself.

While developed for the game of poker, they also apply directly to gaining greater success and happiness in life.

I think you will agree: Poker concepts, strategies and tactics can be applied to your daily life to achieve more success and hapiness.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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