What Tony Hsieh Taught Me About Poker, Business, & Life

Tony Hsieh Happiness

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos, and author of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. The title of his book resonates with me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I believe that being happy, feeling good, and enjoying life is one of things that matters most. I also believe that doing what you love, and creating value through meaningful work is extremely important. And as an entrepreneur and “former” sales consultant, I also know that revenue is key to growing a business.
In Delivering Happiness, Tony shares his stories beginning as a child, to early entrepreneurship, all the way through selling his company to Amazon for $1.2 Billion. Zappos is an incredibly innovative company that continues to redefine and model the importance of company culture and customer experience. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a tour of their corporate headquarters and was inspired by the employees who truly embraced and demonstrated the company’s core values
Also in Delivering Happiness, Tony includes a section where he talks about learning the game of poker and what it taught him about business. The following excerpt from his book provides a solid framework for understanding important business concepts from a seat at the poker table. Each section below is separated by different business categories, and the bullet points are specific poker strategies that also apply to business.
EVALUATING MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
  • Table selection is the most important decision you can make.
  • It’s okay to switch tables if you discover it’s too hard to win at your table.
  • If there are too many competitors (some irrational or inexperienced), even if you’re the best it’s a lot harder to win.
MARKETING AND BRANDING
  • Act weak when strong, act strong when weak. Know when to bluff.
  • Your “brand” is important.
  • Help shape the stories that people are telling about you.
FINANCIALS
  • Always be prepared for the worst possible scenario.
  • The guy who wins the most hands is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run.
  • The guy who never loses a hand is not the guy who makes the most money in the long run.
  • Go for positive expected value, not what’s least risky.
  • Make sure your bankroll is large enough for the game you’re playing and the risks you’re taking.
  • Play only with what you can afford to lose.
  • Remember it’s a long term game. You will win or lose individual sessions, but it’s what happens in the long term that matters.
STRATEGY
  • Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them.
  • Figure out the game when the stakes aren’t high.
  • Don’t cheat. Cheaters never win in the long run.
  • Stick to your principles.
  • You need to adjust your style of play throughout the night as the dynamics of the game change. Be flexible.
  • Be patient and think long term.
  • The players with the most stamina and focus usually win.
  • Differentiate yourself. Do the opposite of what the rest of the table is doing.
  • Hope is not a good plan.
  • Don’t let yourself go “on tilt”. It’s much more cost effective to take a break, walk around, or leave the game for the night.
CONTINUAL LEARNING
  • Educate yourself. Read books and learn from others who have done it before.
  • Learn by doing. Theory is nice, but nothing replaces actual experience.
  • Learn by surrounding yourself with talented players.
  • Just because you win a hand doesn’t mean you’re good and you don’t have more learning to do. You might have just gotten lucky.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
 CULTURE
  • You’ve gotta love the game. To become really good, you need to live it and sleep it.
  • Don’t be cocky. Don’t be flashy. There’s always someone better than you.
  • Be nice and make friends. It’s a small community.
  • Share what you’ve learned with others.
  • Look for opportunities beyond just the game you sat down to play. You never know who you’re going to meet, including new friends for life or new business contacts.
  • Have fun. The game is a lot more enjoyable when you’re trying to do more than just make money.
This is great advice which has influenced my personal vision, focus, and decision making process. It has shaped the mission of Aces Raise to help entrepreneurs, organizations, and individuals grow and develop using the strategies of the world’s most successful poker players. I’m grateful to Tony for sharing his wisdom because without his leadership I wouldn’t be where I am today combining my passions and talents to create maximum value for customers and the people around me. I hope this provides some insight and encouragement for you to up your game at the table, in life, and in your business.