(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, April 4 You may think high-stakes
poker has little in common with your life and career. Annie Duke
thinks you would be wrong.
Long one of the top female poker players in the world, Duke
has been repositioning herself in recent years as a speaker and
strategist, helping people and companies navigate those critical
moments when everything is on the line.
She spoke with Reuters about how everyone from the chief
executive officer to the janitor can improve his or her
prospects with smart strategies, careful planning and the
occasional big bet.
Q: Can poker skills really translate to everyday life?
A: Poker is actually a good way to thinking about
decision-making because it shares a lot of elements with real
life. There are some things we know, some things we don't, and
there is some luck involved as well. So we are making decisions
in a system where things are pretty uncertain, and yet we have
to put at risk all the things we have: time, money, happiness.
Q: One of the first major decisions in life is college. What
advice do you have for those making that choice?
A: People tend to be poor forecasters of what will make them
happy in the future. So don't get fixated on one specific place,
like Columbia or Harvard. No matter where you go, you will
probably come out OK, so it is more important to think about
smaller decisions like which classes you want to take.
You should also think about other options, like taking time
off or doing an apprenticeship until you figure out what you
really want to do. Like in poker, you don't have to exercise
your option right away. If you take a semester off, college
isn't going to go away.
Q: As with "tells" in poker, should people learn to read
A: In general, that is a very helpful thing, to be able to
read the cues people are giving you. One great source of
information on that is anything written by Joe Navarro, who used
to be an interrogator with the FBI.
Don't use that information to crush people, though, just to
learn where they are coming from and if they are lying or
telling the truth.
Q: If you are negotiating or weighing job offers, should you
ever bluff like you do in poker?
A: Honesty is almost always the best policy. At the poker
table, you are perfectly within the rules to bet when you don't
have the best hand. But in the workplace, you want to be seen as
a trusted actor.
That being said, there are certain times in negotiations
when you might want to appear stronger than you really are, or
when you don't want them to know all the information you are
Q: Since your poker career was about maximizing assets, any
advice on spending and saving?
A: Retirement saving is a discounting problem: People will
take a discount to get something now instead of something more
valuable in future. They will take $1 today instead of getting
$2 down the line. So people have to imagine themselves at the
end of their careers, rather than the beginning.
Q: In poker, the most dramatic moment is going "all in."
When should people make a big bet like that in real life?
A: One example of an all-in moment is: "Give me a raise, or
I quit." The only time you should do something like that is when
you have thought through to the end of the play.
What happens if I lose all my chips? Am I OK with that? What
if the other person calls my bluff, and I am left with nothing?
Don't go all in until you have imagined all possible outcomes.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Lisa Von Ahn)