Using "No Limit" Poker Strategies to Win in Business

Published: Jun 07, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By AMA Staff

Winning in business is much like winning at poker: you've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. The authors of No Limit: The Texas Hold 'Em Guide to Winning in Business share their proven strategies to raise your odds of winning-at poker, business, or life.... Suddenly, poker is everywhere. Shows like Celebrity Poker Showdown have given the game far-reaching exposure. You can even join a game without leaving the house, with the advent of 24/7 online poker. In fact, poker is tightly woven into the fabric of American culture: “ace in the hole,” “calling someone’s bluff,” “up the ante,” and “when the chips are down,” are all part of everyday speech.

Now a new book, No Limit: The Texas Hold ‘Em Guide to Winning in Business (AMACOM, 2008), applies proven strategies for winning at the card table to winning in business. Coauthors Donald G. Krause, an avid poker player who is internationally known for his Wall Street Journal bestseller, The Art of War for Executives, and Jeff Carter show how to apply the mindset and moves of the best Texas Hold ‘em players to interpersonal competition in a wide range of fields.

According to the authors, “The conditions, challenges, and decisions faced during a session of Hold ‘em are a structured microcosm of the conditions, challenges, and decisions faced time and again in every career, every business, and every relationship when we are competing with others. The psychology and science practiced by a winning Hold ‘em player is identical to the psychology and science practiced by every successful competitive person.”

Raising the Odds of Winning (in Any Situation) by Playing the “Hard Way”
“Maybe it’s the fickle nature of the universe,” note Krause and Carter, “but success seems to like people who do things the hard way.” In the game of life or poker, these seven actions work like a charm to attract luck and increase the probability of winning:

  1. Handle the Cards. Take advantage of every opportunity to control what you can control within the scope of your responsibility. Think through what you should and could do better to satisfy the needs of key people. When you handle the cards, you improve your chances of tipping circumstances in your favor.
  2. Ask the Tough Questions. People lie. All the time. The average person will generally provide the version of the truth that best serves his position or pocketbook. You simply cannot afford to accept the explanations of others at face value. Ask tough questions if you want answers you can depend on. Then, challenge your own conclusions.
  3. Reduce the Field. The fewer the number of competitors in any contest, the greater chance each one has to win. When making a move to reduce the field, minimize the risk to yourself and your own prospects. In the arena of office politics, indirect moves that focus on rattling your competitors’ confidence can work well and covertly.
  4. Develop Constancy. Constancy of purpose and evenness of temperament prevent permanent harm from the gut-wrenching swings of emotion you will experience during the inevitable ups and downs on the road to achievement. A clear vision of the future, combined with the will to succeed, can carry you through the curves and over the bumps.
  5. Wait and Watch. Patience accompanied by attentive observation is a powerful combination. Consider the way lions hunt their prey. First, they mark out a target animal—weak, tired, wounded, or unwary. Then, they wait and watch for just the right moment to strike without risking being hurt themselves. Finally, they attack with intent to kill.
  6. Angle for Advantage. All things come to those who work like hell when they are waiting. Accumulating small advantages eventually adds up to formidable benefits.
  7. Yes! Say “Yes!” Unless you are willing to consider opening the door when opportunity knocks, eventually you will not hear it, even if it is pounding away on your front porch. Say “yes” once in a while to a tempting possibility. Nothing ever looks like a sure thing unless you are looking at it in the rearview mirror.

The Five “*ILLs” of No Limit: What It Takes to Win in Business and the Game of Texas Hold ‘em

  1. WILL. More than a wish for success, the will to succeed requires a commitment to activity. Action is the trigger. What you do, you become. Talking about goals and objectives may create an appearance of ambition for a while, but action is the real thing.
  2. SKILL. High levels of accomplishment require high levels of knowledge and skill. First, recognize that you need to learn. Then, apply your mind and time to acquiring the knowledge you need. Skill begins to develop when you decide to stop justifying your lack of it.
  3.  FILL. Each and every moment of time is surrounded by an infinite number of possibilities, only a few of which will become apparent. In order to move toward our goals, we must make effective use of the cards we are dealt (the fill). We must employ what we actually have to create the reality we want.
  4. KILL. All of the desire, training, and opportunity in the world cannot provide you with success unless you are willing and ready to act when the time is right. The ability to kill means that you are prepared to do what is needed to realize your plans. Sooner or later you will be required to risk your chips in a showdown. Picking the right showdown at the right time will certainly influence the outcome. The ultimate determinant of success, however, is your determination to do whatever it takes to win.
  5. BILL. You have will-ed, skill-ed, fill-ed , and kill-ed your way to the pinnacle of competition. Now what? The keys to surviving the aftermath of success are represented in the keyword, "B-I-L-L:"

Build a base. No success lasts forever. Reserve some wealth for hard times.

Interpret the signs. Acknowledge and accept periods of decline as inevitable.

Locate the exits. When you enter a risky situation, know your escape routes.

—Leave it behind. Creating success, and then getting out unscathed, is the ultimate achievement. In the last context, all you can retain is your opinion of yourself.

Adapted from No Limit: The Texas Hold ‘Em Guide to Winning in Business by Donald G. Krause and Jeff Carter (AMACOM 2008), a division of the American Management Association.

About The Author(s)

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.