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Startups & Starting Hands

13th June 2022

Poker has been a big part of my life for over 10 years now. It all started when my wife nudged me to play when they were short on players, but little did I know the love I would develop for the game, but more importantly, the life lessons I would pick up along the way, especially regarding entrepreneurship.


Every brilliant start-up idea is like jack-ten suited. With this hand, you have the potential to hit a royal flush, the most awaited and desired hand in the sport, and that’s what every entrepreneur believes can happen & showcases it in the business plan and growth forecasts.


However, poker is a game of patience and perseverance. It involves critical decision making and strategic calculations. You must know when to commit your money, when to slow down and when to fold.


The first step is building a valuable pot with a strong hand during the first round of betting. The community cards haven’t been turned over yet, but you have seen and studied the strength of the hand in the past and put your faith in it at an early stage. You raise the hand and hope that someone is willing to play with you.


When the flop comes, it’s time to reevaluate. Maybe you’ve hit a top pair. Or, a middle pair, but with a backdoor flush draw possibility. You tread carefully at this point, because even though you are not out of woods yet, there are two more streets to reevaluate and manoeuver to win the hand. Maybe you want to see the next card for as cheap as possible. Or perhaps you want to bet aggressively, representing a hand stronger than the one you hold, in an attempt to get your competitor to surrender. Sometimes, you know you are beat, but continue nonetheless, hopeful that the turn will improve your odds.


Then, the turn card is flipped over. Maybe your hand got significantly better, or you miss it completely. Now is the time to reassess your strategy – you can attempt to semi-bluff your opponent, check in hopes to see the last card for free, or value bet your strong hand in order to maximize your gains.


When the river card comes, it is important to keep your composure and stay brave. As long as another player is in the hand with you, it’s possible that they have you beat, or that they have plans to bluff you. The game isn’t over till show down. It is this river card that entrepreneurs wait for – an acquisition, an IPO, a merger. It is this moment that all the risks you’ve taken either pay off, or you lose the hand and have to wait for the next one.


Losing a pot isn’t the end of the world. Just like poker, entrepreneurs know that being successful is a long-term game – they don’t just give up after their first business venture folds. They simply stay calm and composed and wait for their hand that can win them at showdown.


They will win some hands and lose plenty. But starting with a good hand and adjusting the strategy on every street is crucial to winning in the long run. When you are dealt jack-ten, you always have the potential to make the nuts on the river. Likewise, you can start with the absolute best hand, pocket aces, but the board might be horrible for you – it is a game changer to know when to let it go or rethink your game going forward from there. Either way, you need to play the hands for the chance to win.


I have met so many people who say that they wanted to do what I am doing, but they chose to fold a strong hand pre-flop. You can’t win if you choose not to play and risk much of what you have, for the sheer thrill of stacking your opponent in return.

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