This last week I had an opportunity to play the world's biggest poker tournament, the World Series of Poker. With a Buy-In of over $10,000 it's also one of the most expensive tournaments in all of poker too.
I made it all the way to the end of Day 2, just short of making the money, before being eliminated on the classic coin flip of AK vs QQ.
As seems to be a trend with a lot of ecommerce store owners, I've played a lot of poker in my life. This is in no small part due to the fact that prior to ecommerce I also ran one of the largest poker affiliate sites in the world and was even a part owner of the Canadian Poker Tour. Poker has taught me a lot about running an ecommerce business and in this article I'll share some of these learnings.
Don't Play Scared
I've been fortunate to have some fairly decent business successes in my life, but $10,000 to play cards is still a meaningful amount of money for me. If I bought a full priced ticket for the WSOP I know what would happen – I'd be playing scared. I'd be too afraid to take a chance on a big bluff. I'd be too nervous to call a big bet with a second pair. And so on. So instead, I played a $1000 satellite tournament and won a ticket to the WSOP.
I see people playing scared all the time in ecommerce. They're afraid to turn off PPC for fear of what it might do to their organic rankings. They're afraid to do a radical rebrand for fear of alienating their existing audience, however small it may be. If you're comfortable losing what you have and don't run scared, it allows you to take bolder steps.
F*ing Two Things Up at Once Isn't Multitasking
The WSOP allows phones at the table now. It's great – I can get instantly notified if there's a business threatening emergency. And I can also check with my text messages eight times a minute and achieve my goal of inbox zero.
But when I'm constantly checking my phone my attention goes away from watching the table. I miss the weird e-twitch-tell that the girl opposite of me has. I miss that the guy beside me is tighter than a mayonnaise-lid and has folded every single hand for the last 6 hours. I think I'm just a good multi-tasker and there's no way my phone is taking away from my game. But as the famous saying goes (I think it must be from Ghandi), “Fucking two things up at once isn't multitasking”.
How many times have you been in a complete flow and working on an incredible blog post or designing your next hero product and get distracted by a text message and take an hour to get back into the flow? Try to leave your phone away from arm's reach for an hour and close your email tab. Your productivity will go through the roof.
Implied Odds Don't Always Work in Tournament Poker (or Business)
In Poker there's something called implied odds which basically means the amount of money you can be expected to win if you hit your hand. For example, if you have ‘pocket twos' and hit a third two, no one will suspect it and you'll likely get a massive payoff. In tournament poker where you have a finite number of chips though, this theory doesn't always work though because if you don't hit your cards you could be out of the tournament with no rebuys! In tournament poker you have to sometimes play for the higher percentage hands. The same thing is incredibly true in ecommerce.
I see this all the time with people in the EcomCrew audience where people risk all of their money on a product that has a slim chance of success. Bob has $5,000 and he wants to put it all into launching his first product and he's looking at bamboo cutlery, one of the more competitive categories on Amazon. If the product is a success and he makes it to the number one position he'll making a killing. If the product doesn't succeed, he won't have enough money to launch another product and he'll go back to his day-job and give up his ecommerce dream. Bob needs to put his money in Ace-King more than Two-Two, even though the latter probably has a higher pay-off if it hits. On the other hand, if Bob's bamboo cutlery doesn't work out and he's OK re-investing another $5000, then sure, maybe it's worth the risk. But if you're just starting and
In tournament poker you have a finite number of chips and in ecommerce you (almost certainly) have a finite amount of cash. Play your probabilities accordingly.
Turn Losing Into Motivation, Not Depression
I missed the money. My dreams of being one of the first satellite entries to win the WSOP were dashed. I was depressed for two days. But you know what? Out of 10,000 players, 8000 of them also walked away with nothing and I know holding my own for two days against some of the best poker players in the world is far better than your average poker player can do.
When you're faced with a loss like this, you handle it in a few ways. You can be depressed (like I was). You can be angry at yourself (which I also was). You can make excuses. Or you can let it be motivating.
Many of my friends have far more successful businesses than me. Some of them own multinational brands you would recognize. Some of them have sold their businesses for close to $100million. I don't envy them or make excuses for their success. I use it to motivate me to achieve more in my own ecommerce business.
And yes, I'll be trying to get into the WSOP next year.