We recently caught up with Australian professional poker player Joe Hachem who famously won the 2005 World Series of Poker to the tune of $7.5 million. Known for exhibiting extreme control during intense hands, Hachem has developed a playing style that works in real-life situations; particularly when it comes to high-stakes business scenarios.
Poker picture from Shutterstock
Poker is often dismissed as a game of potluck — which is a pretty fair assessment if you're just playing with mates. However, it actually requires an extraordinarily amount of planning and strategy at the professional level. Joe Hachem, who has amassed more than $11,700,000 in tournament winnings over the years, believes that his underling game plan has served him well in all aspects of life.
“Life, business and poker are about making good, informed decisions," Hachem explained to us. "Whether you’re a journalist, an athlete, a takeover specialist or a poker player, you need to live by the same basic principles and values if you want to succeed.
“Just like in business, a good poker player needs to be disciplined, he needs to be patient, he needs to be in tune with his body and he needs to understand his opponent’s psychologies.“
Here are Hachem's top eight poker tips that are applicable to all walks of life:
#1 Stay fit and sleep well
I always exercise regularly and eat well in the lead-up to a big tournament. During the tournament I work out every morning, eat right and try not to stay up too late so I’m well rested the next morning. After I finish my game, I like to be in bed within an hour instead of going out partying and spending the next day trying to recover. I reckon this is a pretty good mindset to get into regardless of the work project you’re tackling – if you treat your body right, you’ll feel fresher and perform at your peak level.
#2 Know your game plan
When you come into a big tournament, you try to work on your mental strategy long before you sit down at the table. You say to yourself “I understand what the blind structure is, I understand how long the tournament’s going to go for, I understand my position in the tournament, who’s sitting on my left, who’s sitting on my right, and so on.” And that kind of dictates your style of play and the decisions you make.
#3 Trust your gut
Poker is a numbers game and you need to understand numbers to be really good at it. But there’s also what people call gut instinct and it’s usually a good idea to trust it. Sometimes the numbers lead in one direction but your gut is telling you something else. Personally, I find that if I listen to my gut – whether it’s in business, poker or life — I’m usually on the money. I’ve had many dealings with people where everything sounded right but my gut didn’t feel right so I said “nup, I’m not doing this” and I was right.
#4 Practice makes perfect
You need to be intuitive in poker and that only comes from practicing away from the table. You can’t expect to be successful by just showing up and playing. You need to actually work on your game. I think the same advice applies to any other profession. You can’t just rock up and be the best. You need to practice, then rock up and be the best.
#5 Manage your cashflow
Poker also teaches you to manage money. A lot of people make the mistake of not managing their money well and they’re always living from one pay cheque to the next. Poker is very much the same. If you don’t manage your bank roll, you go broke. The same thing applies to business as well. If you’re going to be successful in life you need to manage your funds.
#6 Luck only exists in the short term
If I played one hand of poker with you today, it would be 100 per cent luck. If I played 1000 hands, it would be 99 per cent skill. So in the short term, anyone can get lucky. In the long term, the better player’s going to win. That said, there will always be an element of chance in life that can cause unexpected things to happen. We all get the same amount of good luck and the same amount bad luck in life — the important thing is how you deal with it.
#7 Emotions are the enemy
In poker, it’s important to stick with your principles and not let your emotions take over. Quite often I’ll be at a poker table where one guy gets the better of me in a few hands and I start thinking “oh god, this guy’s so bad, how does he keep getting lucky?” If I begin to play emotionally against him, I’m not playing the correct cards in the correct position. So now I’m putting myself at more risk of losing even more chips. On the other hand, if I just brush it off and think “this is a variance of the game, shit happens”, I make sure I don’t cross a red light just because I’m angry. Instead, I keep my cool and wait for the light to turn green. I believe the same thing applies in business; especially when there are egos flying around.
#8 Remember to have fun
You need to enjoy what you do so it doesn’t become work. This might not be your day job which you obviously need to provide for your family — but try to find something on the side that you actually enjoy doing.