5 Things Playing Blackjack Taught Me About Business
I enjoy blackjack. I’m not a professional blackjack player, nor did I ever make millions or even thousands off it. It was a game I’ve played for years just for fun.
But blackjack is not just a game of pure chance. There is a science and strategy behind those cards, and the same rules which helped me in blackjack can help you in business. Just look at Jeff Ma, who has attributed his success as a businessman to the things he learned playing blackjack.
Here are five important rules which you can learn at the blackjack table which are just as important for a business:
Don’t look for a single, decisive winner
Every businessman knows about this rule, but it is harder to follow than it sounds. And this is true in blackjack as well. No matter how good you are at blackjack, you will have plenty of moments when you find yourself down by a lot. The temptation at that point is to make one massive gamble which will recoup all of your losses in one swift stroke.
That is the absolute worst thing which you can do. If your gamble succeeds, you are only at zero. But if it fails, you are in a huge pile of trouble. When you are down at a blackjack table or running a business, the only way to recover and get back into the black is with slow, steady bets.
Risk is not bad
One important element in blackjack is the double down. In double down, the player doubles his bet in exchange for only getting one more card.
Blackjack specialists will tell you to always double down if you have an 11, and probably if you have a 10 or 9. But all too often, blackjack players will hesitate to do that. They worry about taking risks or think that they may need just another card after the double down.
But when the odds are in your favor, you have to strike while the iron is hot. Of course there are many ways to stack odds in your favor. Every blackjack player knows how card counting can turn the tables on the dealer, and there are similar techniques you can use in business. When you spot a good business opportunity, you cannot just wait and fret about what might go wrong. It is said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, which means your business has to seize the opportunity when it comes.
Don’t let success get to your head
The story of leaders who became arrogant after tasting a period of success and then fall is as old as human history itself. And in gambling, players will think they are on a hot streak and make risker bets.
There is no such thing as a “hot streak”, and a basic probability class can tell you that much. Success does not automatically beget future success. And in business, a period of good deals does not mean that you can relax and assume things will continue to go your way. Just a slight misstep or some increased carelessness, and you can find yourself back at step one both in gambling and in business.
Never lose your temper
Blackjack is ultimately a game where people should enjoy themselves. But as stories like this shows, players who lose react by venting their rage out on the dealer, other players, and absolutely anything else which they can blame for their loss besides themselves.
Behavior like that is a sign of poor leadership and character, and is just as ugly in the business world as in blackjack. There are times when a business screw up will happen because an employee or colleague made a bad decision. But the employer who reacts to that by screaming and berating them is one who will not be an effective leader. A truly effective leader can stay calm even when everyone is panicking, and find a way to fix the problem.
Know when to fold ‘em
Sometimes, you have a bad streak at the blackjack table. No matter what strategy you use, the fates themselves appear to be conspire against you and you are falling more and more behind.
On nights like that, the hardest thing to do is to accept that you’ve lost and leave. But if you don’t want to lose far more than you were prepared to spend when you sat down, you have to get up and walk away from the table. This is especially so because after such a string of defeats, your nerves and emotions will be badly frayed and prevent calm, rational judgment.
And this is true for a business. Whether it is knowing to end a certain business deal or in the worst case closing down the business altogether, there is a point where you can do no more and trying is just shoveling more money into a hole. You have to know when to stop and admit that it is over.
Featured photo credit: Images Money via flickr.com
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