What Can Poker Teach Us About Life?

min read
BetMGM Dec 29, 2021, 5:34 AM

There’s an old African proverb that says, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” Everyday life is full of lessons. For example, nothing teaches you patience like visiting a government office. Even games can also teach you a lot about life. Those who like to play poker online or in person, whether it’s casual poker games for real money or the best online poker tournaments, will all agree that you can learn a lot from this game. But what exactly does poker, whether it’s poker games online or face-to-face games, teach you? 

Read on, and you’ll see that there’s plenty to learn.

What poker can teach you about life

two seniors smiling and player poker

In life, some lessons you learn once and some lessons you are unfortunately taught twice, or even multiple times. Whether online poker is the name of the game or you’re playing poker in a brick-and-mortar casino, you can rest assured that there are lessons to be learned. Here are some of the things that poker has taught us about life.

Luck is a little overrated

Whether you’re playing offline or poker online, not everything is within your control and that’s likely why you might prefer to think of it as a game of chance or luck. It isn’t – or perhaps it is – just not the brand of luck you’re accustomed to. Luck is when you get off lightly and the outcome is favorable despite every indication that it shouldn’t be. When you put it like that, being “lucky” isn’t anything to be proud of.

On the other hand, poker is a game of probability, observation and precision. Life is a mirror image of this. Just like in poker, we don’t control everything; we have to pay attention to our surroundings as well as ourselves, plan accordingly and execute with as much precision as possible. We won’t always win, but we’ll eventually succeed. This is arguably the most valuable of all poker lessons and gambling tips.

Saying no to the blame game

Have you ever met someone who could find fault absolutely anywhere but in themselves? They take every opportunity to complain and make you roll your eyes so furiously that a small part of you worries they might get stuck. You definitely have met such a person, and if it happens to be you, this section will hopefully make you reconsider who you lay the blame on. 

In poker, you are dealt a hand and, like it or not, you must play that hand. There’s no room to point fingers, throw a tantrum or host the self-pity party of the year. Doing so is a sure-fire way to waste an opportunity because, both in life and poker, there are too many variables to assume the outcome is already decided. Rather, put that energy and time into making the most of the hand you were dealt. Look for opportunities and do all you can to make them count, and sometimes, just as the lyrics from Slip Out the Back by Fort Minor say, “know when to fold your cards and take a rest.” 

What poker teaches you is that even if you might not have the photo editing skills or flawless looks of an influencer, the bank balance of a trust fund baby, or the hand of another poker player in the game, you can narrow the gap with a little hard work, working with what you’ve got, forward thinking, persistence and strength of character.

Fail forward

This is not an oxymoron – the education system may teach you that failure is the end, but that’s not always the case. More often than not, failure is an opportunity for learning, and when you learn, you improve. When you improve, you increase your odds of winning. 

One of the most underappreciated poker tips and tricks for newcomers is getting used to losing. Losing is common ground in poker, online or offline. Nobody wins all the time, but as a newbie, you have to be comfortable with losing as it will enhance your experience if you do it the right way. 

If this sounds very daunting, online poker is very much geared towards helping you hone your skills and teaches you to roll with the metaphorical punches. You can play multiple tables at a time, and the games are fast-paced. This means gaining more experience, whether it’s in regards to wins or losses, more quickly. 

No-one – irrespective of how successful they are at anything in life – has ever made it to where they are without taking a few knocks. The difference is that they’ve been able to learn from their losses and use that experience to do better in the future. In poker, just like in life, fail forward.

Be confident, but humble

Self-awareness is more than the catchphrase of 2019; it’s a necessity in poker and everyday life. It’s very easy to develop tunnel vision and see only our strengths, forgetting that without a shadow of a doubt, we have weaknesses too. Nobody’s perfect. That’s not an excuse not to bother with getting better, but rather the very reason you should always pay close attention to yourself and see how you can improve.

What poker can teach you about business

male hand stacking up piles of poker chips

Manage your money

Of all the poker lessons that you can learn for business from either offline or online casinos, managing your money is the most important. Bankroll management (BRM) is a fundamental practice in poker which involves ensuring that you have a significantly higher amount of money in your bankroll than what is at stake, and that your bankroll is only made up of money you can afford to lose. Gambling is fun, but it must be done responsibly and shouldn’t result in the loss of funds you need for daily life. This level of prudence should be used in business transactions and deals too.

Quit while you’re ahead

Greed is unfortunately entangled with human nature. The more we get, the more we want. Just as in poker, there comes a time in business where, despite past successes, the additional risk just isn’t worth it. A great way to know when to quit while you’re ahead is to perform risk-reward analysis. Keep yourself accountable and don’t risk your rewards unnecessarily.

Know your competition

It has become a bit cliché to quote Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, but an invaluable lesson will always be an invaluable lesson, regardless of how many times it is repeated. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War 

Both in poker and in business, no person is an island. What poker can teach us about business is to recognize the competition and to make the effort to understand them fully so that a better strategy can be implemented to ensure success.

What poker can teach you about relationships

three couples playing poker with one man throwing casino chips at the table

Don’t judge a book by its cover

In poker, anybody can be capable of anything, so any prejudices or assumptions will only work against you. Respect all your opponents, learn how to relate to them, and study their habits before deciding on how to play against them. The life lesson here is to take the time to get to know the people around you. In life, you might be pleasantly surprised by the person behind the first impression. On the other hand, you might avoid frustration and disappointment by managing your expectations with caution.

Think bigger picture

Conflict often ends with our emotions running rampant, resulting in rash decisions and a host of regrets. This may happen in poker too, but with time – and preferably sooner rather than later – you will recognize the importance of looking at the bigger picture. If your buddy Brad continuously outdraws and outplays you, there’s no point in dedicating your energy to getting even. You have to remember the bigger picture. You’re here to win a game. In relationships, you might be at odds with your other half. Being right shouldn’t be the focus of every conflict; sometimes, simply finding a solution that paves the way forward for the ideal outcome is the way to go. Think of the bigger picture. Your stress levels will thank you for it.

Commitment is key

Poker is just like any romantic novel. You are one of the characters, and honestly, the story can end either in heartbreak or happiness. If you win, you will be happier, but if you lose you have the opportunity to learn. The key, in relationships and in poker, is to stay committed. Not every chapter will be easy, but you have to keep going forward together.

Life is just like a game of poker

two ace cards with stacks of poker chips in the blurred background

You have to take a few chances if you want to win big. Thankfully you don’t have to take any chances when you register at BetMGM

BetMGM is your go-to online gambling site for online casino games, including table games like roulette and blackjack, as well as slots, variety games and much more. You can even play video poker online if you want to enjoy a poker-like experience but don’t feel like playing with other people. 

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Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.