4 Business Lessons We Can Learn From Retired Poker Player Doug Polk

Competition is only getting steeper as more business owners attempt to enter the field. The USCB counted 5.4 million business applications in 2021 alone, and while the surge in entrepreneurship is good news for the economy, it’s difficult to say how many of these applications will turn into successful businesses.

If you need expert advice on surviving intense competition, look no further than the poker players who continuously play despite the high stakes and intense pressure. Former poker player Doug Polk has an estimated net worth of $10 million. This doesn’t just stem from Doug Polk’s incredible success in poker – it has also been amassed through his investments in the cryptocurrency market and his related businesses.

Doug Polk currently owns three businesses — the online cryptocurrency resource CoinCentral, Upswing Poker, where he coaches poker on a membership basis, and the members-only club The Lodge Poker Club. So to learn a little about how he succeeded in business, below are some insights we can pull from his many, many successes.

Start from the basics

Before you can delve into complex strategies, you must be able to familiarize yourself with the basics. This is the principle behind the first section of the Upswing Poker Lab, called “Lab Core Strategy.”

The same goes for business. Before you can strategize sales or HR campaigns, start with understanding concepts like accounting, assets, or ROI. Investopedia’s guide to business development notes that once you understand the basics, you can then have a better understanding of the next steps in business, such as increasing revenues, expanding growth, and increasing profitability.

Know your competitors

Doug Polk is well-known for disagreeing with Daniel Negreanu, a fellow poker star, after the latter had commented on winning at $25/$50 stakes online with only two weeks of practice. Polk believed that this was a gross underestimation of his opponents, as in his experience the online community is actually significantly better at playing poker than the live poker world, whereas Negreanu only specialized in the latter.

Similar misunderstandings when it comes to audience and context are commonly made in business. For example, American businesses like eBay or Google were successful in the U.S. but have had difficulty expanding into China in lieu of local companies like TaoBao or Baidu. That is because markets differ a lot, as do their approaches to business, which competitors may better understand.

Exhaust every possible strategy

To ensure that you avoid mistakes, it is important that you exhaust every possible strategy. This doesn’t mean going all-in haphazardly. Every poker move should be calculated and based on probability, to which players must factor in every eventuality by assessing the table.

The same can be done in business by studying industry trends. By doing this, it can avoid costly mistakes like that of Walmart’s fumble in 2005 when they launched the “Every Day Low Prices” campaign in Japan. This was a commercial success in America, but Japanese negatively associate low prices with cheap quality.

The strategy, of course, backfired. Finding the right solution can be tricky, but fortunately businesses can take advantage of Strategy Planning Tools like the Vision Statement Toolkit to set out higher-level visions and goals, or the GAP Analysis Toolkit to study the gaps in your company’s capacity. They can provide vendor support and even assistance with KPIs, and help you tailor campaigns that are right for specific markets.

Mistakes are normal

In Polk’s iconic win against Negreanu in 2021, Polk claimed that he started training for the match a year before. Yet, he believes that he could’ve played better. This is normal. In his interview, he said: “… if I did it again, I’d make tons of mistakes again. You’re always going to make mistakes in poker.”

Ultimately, Polk walked away with $1.2 million and this imperfect victory is an inspiration to every other poker player, and business owner. Mistakes are just as inevitable in business, but they’re only part of the journey. With effort and study, there is always more success to be had ahead.

The business industry is dynamic, which means that you have to be as well. What’s important is that you always look to move forward and learn from your mistakes. As Doug Polk demonstrates, success can be attained in the long run if you follow the basics.