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December 05, 2006

Poker and Meetings

The reason for my recent blog silence is that I spent a long weekend in Las Vegas playing poker. There are various different styles of playing poker: you can be very loose, playing lots of hands; or you can play very tight, only playing pots when you have good hands. You can also be aggressive, raising and bluffing a lot, or not. Finally, you can earn the dreaded label "weak-tight", which means you don't play a lot of hands, and when you do play them, you get very scared whenever somebody raises you, and construct scenarios in which they have you beat.

I was sitting at a meeting in my sleep-deprived post-Vegas state and I had the thought that sitting around a conference room table was similar to sitting around a poker table. And THEN I had the clever-or-maybe-not thought that your demeanor in a meeting can be mapped pretty closely to the poker styles.

Meaning, playing a hand at the poker table is a lot like choosing to enter a discussion in a meeting. You can be loose or tight, that is you can open your mouth whenever you think of anything, or only speak when you have a "good hand"--something that it is really worthwhile to say. Once you are in a discussion, you can be aggressive, meaning you persist until you get your way, or you can be passive, meaning you defer to others. And of course you can be "weak-tight", meaning that you don't say much, and when you do, you quickly assume that any counter-arguments you hear are better than your arguments.

One concept I have heard in relation to meetings is "the power of silence". You should mostly be quiet during meetings, because it adds gravitas to anything you do say, makes people more willing to listen, and helps you prevail in arguments. People assume that if you speak rarely, you will only do so when you feel strongly about something, and if you shut up unless you really have something valid to say, you are more likely to win arguments, because you only starts ones where you have a well-thought-out position.

This matches up nicely with poker, where being tight but aggressive is usually the right way to play. You stay quiet until you have a good "hand" to play, but when you do play something, you are aggressive. I'm too loose in meetings and probably too weak-tight as well. So from now on I'm going to sit back, wait for the premium hands, and re-raise when I get one.

Posted by AdamBa at December 5, 2006 10:10 PM

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How did you make out at the poker tables? I try to make the trip to vegas once a year.

Posted by: peter at December 6, 2006 07:44 PM

Ahh, I did OK. Won money playing cash games, but didn't get in the money in any tournaments, so when you toss in the entry fees I wound up down for the trip. Closest I came was 23rd in a tournament where 18 spots paid, I had KK and someone hit an A on the river to make a pair. That's poker!

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at December 7, 2006 10:56 PM

Alexander Abian left the Univ. of Pennsylvania not because there was a threat that he would be "non-renewed" but because the mathematics department was falling apart at the time. He proactively sought other employment. Maybe he can't sue you for libel, but there may be a chance that I can (but won't).

Signed, his daughter Rimma

Posted by: Rimma Abian at December 12, 2006 05:42 PM