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The POKER FACE: READING PEOPLE
In poker and business, you'll have an edge if you can figure out what your opponent is thinking.
"All you pay is the looking price. Lessons are extra." That's what Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) says in the movie The Cincinnati Kid when asked how he knew what his opponent was holding.
Reading people is a combination of knowing the person, reading his or her body language, and uncovering his or her motives. The safety of familiarity is the reason people like doing business with people they know. But even without knowing someone, there is still plenty you can learn by just studying his mannerisms--what he does with his hands, whether or not he maintains eye contact, or even something as subtle as how he is standing.
When you observe a person, you start to put together pieces of information that lead to a hunch. Then, when you add more information and combine it with knowing the person's character and motives, you develop a gut feeling. Like poker players, detectives don't solve a case based on one clue; it's the combination of many factors that takes you from a gut feeling to a sound conclusion.
Whether you are recruiting a new employee, negotiating terms with a supplier, or trying to capture market share from a competitor, knowing how someone else is thinking will influence your strategy and increase your likelihood of success. It's why Abraham Lincoln said, "When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say, and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say."
What sets the experts in poker and business apart from theircompetition is their innate ability to read people and understand their opponents. Without this skill, a good player will remain merely good. With this skill, a good player becomes a legend.
"He said, 'Son, I've made a life out of readin' people's faces, And knowin' what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.' " -- Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler"
Weak Is Strong and Strong Is Weak
"Make a move and you're a dead man!" Notice how the guy who says that isn't the one who throws the first punch. It's the guy who doesn't say a word who you have to worry about.
Typically in poker, weak is strong and strong is weak. When your opponent is looking away from you, trying to act nonchalant, he probably has a great hand and is trying to appear weak, so you will call (see the bet) and add to his pot. The opponent who is staring you down, trying to intimidate you by appearing strong, is usually bluffing and is trying to get you to fold. Even simpler, a player who is talking is usually bluffing, and one who is silent typically isn't.
Mike Caro, who authored the seminal book on reading people at the poker table, Caro's Book of Tells, has this to say in Doyle Brunson's book Super/System: A Course in Power Poker:
These people--the majority of folks you meet every day--are actors. They present themselves to you as people different than they really are.
Deep within themselves they know they are not the same people they pretend to be. On an unconscious level, they think, "Hey, I'm so phony that if I don't act to disguise my poker hand, everyone will see right through me!"
And that's why the majority of these pitiful people are going to give you their money by always acting weak when they're strong and strong when they're weak.
You see this premise played out all the time in everyday life. When a person tells you that he'll "sue you to high heaven," it's a safe bet that he can't afford an attorney. The guy who can't stop talking about what a "player" he is probably has a tough time getting a date. And when you meet someone who is quick to tell you how he is making money "hand over fist" in the market, it's a good bet that a margin call is right around the corner.
In business, and particularly in the stock market, there is a financial incentive to act strong, since stock prices are influenced by how confident investors are in a company's future. Why do you think many CEOs are so optimistic, even in bad times? Regardless of the fundamentals, they want investors to think that their company is a good buy. The crafty ones have a penchant for being most vocal about how great things are just as things are falling to pieces. Strong is weak.
Knowing this tendency of people is of value only if you can put it to use, and doing so starts with knowing a person's motive. If one of your customers appears overly strong when talking about his company's prospects just as he is asking you to extend him more credit, this is an indication that strong is weak. Now might be the time to tighten your credit policy. If you're interviewing a person who makes it a point to name-drop and sound "strong," it's a good sign that he is "weak" in that he lacks confidence or doesn't have a large network.
If an employee leaves resumes on his desk and tries to make a point of letting you know he is looking for a new job right around bonus time, he probably isn't going anywhere. Most employees looking for a new job try to act "weak" by doing everything they can not to arouse suspicion out of fear of being found out. Each situation is different, but when you combine the strong/weak premise with a person's motive, it allows you to make a better read.
At the highest levels of poker and business, in which all the players know the basic premise that weak is strong and strong is weak, it can also be used as a reverse tactic. A player will sometimes try to intimidate an opponent by acting strong so that the other player will think, "strong must be weak," but all along, the player was just setting his opponent up and really was holding a strong hand. It's like playing rock, paper, scissors and saying, "I'm going to throw rock," and then actually throwing rock. If your opponent is convinced that you're trying to manipulate him, he'll least suspect it.
The goal of reading others is to better understand their intentions and adapt your strategy based on what they are thinking. It's human nature to fight fear with aggression--to act strong when you're weak. Knowing this tendency, combined with knowing the person's motive, will allow you to read other people more effectively.
Before drawing a conclusion, ask yourself if a person has a reason to deceive you. If so, expect that person to act strong when he is weak and weak when he is strong.
Posted May 21, 2002
Just finished reading The Poker MBA. Thought this might be just another business book but it was very different. First time a book incorporates business principles with the game of poker. Found it to be very informative and entertaining at the same time! The authors really know their business and their poker. Lots of quotes and tips make the book fun to read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2002
Weather you are a seasoned businessperson or a young entrepreneur you must read The Poker MBA. The authors show incredible insight into what it truly takes to be successful in business. Relating these concepts to poker made the book fun and easy to read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.