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I’ve noticed that a good poker player generally is a success in whatever business or profession he’s in, or he could be if he put his mind to it. Why? Because he understands people, and that’s the foundation for success in this world.

Maverick’s Guide to Poker

JOKERS: Jokers are wild in this book, and with fifty-two of them, you’ll have an entire deck of cards that can turn any hand into a winner. When you find one, you’ll also find a quote or two, a business nugget, or a quick story.


Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18

Chapter 1: The Poker Face: Reading People

“He said, ‘Son, I’ve made a life out of readin’ people’s faces,
And knowin’ what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.’”

Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

“If one is able and strong, then one should disguise oneself in order to appear inept and weak.”

Sun TzuThe Art of War

“Watch out for the man whose stomach doesn’t move when he laughs.”

Cantonese proverb

“One of the reasons it is so easy to lose money in the stock market is that you aren’t looking into the eyes of the person on the other side of your trade. If you were aggressively buying a stock and discovered it was Peter Lynch or Warren Buffett selling, you might think twice about what you were doing. At least in poker, you know your opponent and can figure out whether you are the patsy. The new era investors have concluded that their poker buddies Warren, George [Soros], Stanley [Druckenmiller] and Julian [Robertson] are just old and stupid. Well, maybe…”
Sigma Investment newsletter, May 2000

“I study people, and in every negotiation, I weigh how tough I should appear. I can be a killer and a nice guy. You have to be everything. You have to be strong. You have to be sweet. You have to be ruthless. And I don’t think any of it can be learned. Either you have it or you don’t. And that is why most kids can get straight A’s in school but fail in life.”

Donald Trump

“Throughout history, human nature has been sold short.”

Abraham Maslow

“In some poker games in England, they have a rule that you’re not allowed to talk about your hand during play. That’s sick. Poker is a game based on the concept of talking your opponents into and out of pots. As I’ve said many times, there’s nothing wrong with a wagering game involving pairs, straights, flushes, and full houses that is played in silence. Just don’t call it ‘poker.’ That name is already taken.”

Mike Caro

“Lying is good. It’s the only way we ever get at the truth.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

“[Sumner] Redstone has a great intuitive grasp of people….This kind of insight is hardly rare among people who make their living at the negotiating table. It’s the skill of the poker player. But poker is a game of manipulation and exploitation–and Redstone doesn’t seem to manipulate or exploit. He persuades and seduces: he would concede that your straight flush beat his three of a kind, but then, over a very long dinner at Spago, he would develop such a rapport with you that you’d willingly split the pot with him.”

Malcolm GladwellThe New Yorker

Chapter 3: Liar’s Poker: Decision-Making

“Industry executives and analysts often mistakenly talk about strategy as if it were some kind of chess match. But in chess, you have just two opponents, each with identical resources, and with luck playing a minimal role. The real world is much more like a poker game, with multiple players trying to make the best of whatever hand fortune has dealt them. In our industry, Bill Gates owns the table until someone proves otherwise.”

David MoschellaComputerworld

“Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Peter Drucker

“The person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job. The person who knows ‘why’ will always be his boss.”

Diane Ravitch, historian and research professor at New York University

“Too many rules get in the way of leadership. They just put you in a box….People set rules to keep from making decisions.”

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University men’s basketball coach

“A seemingly trivial and playful pursuit like poker, von Neumann argued, might hold the key to more serious affairs for two reasons. Both poker and economic competition require a certain type of reasoning, namely the rational calculation of advantage and disadvantage based on some internally consistent system of values (‘more is better than less’). And in both, the outcome for any individual actor depends not only on his own actions, but on the independent actions of others.”

Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind

Chapter 4: Taking Calculated Risks

“Son, no matter how far you travel, or how smart you get, always remember this: Someday, somewhere, a guy is going to come to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is never broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that the jack of spades will jump out of this deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet him, for as sure as you do you are going to get an ear full of cider.”

Damon Runyon, “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown”

“I recently watched a rank novice win $10,000 in an hour-long Poker session at the Dunes Hotel Casino in Las Vegas from five men who are considered to be among the twenty best Poker players in Las Vegas. That was chance, a momentary aberration in the probabilities. They are inevitable in any gambling game. If it weren’t for them–and the long-odds winning they make possible–gambling would be barren of what makes it gambling. Certainly luck operates, to this limited extent, within the theory of probability. All that the theory guarantees is that ultimately each player will have been dealt an approximately equal number of opportunities to win, an approximately equal number of good, bad and indifferent hands.”

John Scarne, legendary gambling author

In the movie Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) asks Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) for an honest answer about his chances with her: “Hit me with it. Just give it to me straight. I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?”

“Not good,” says Mary.

“You mean not good like one out of a hundred?”

“I’d say more like one out of a million.”

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yeah!”

Chapter 5: Table Image: Branding

“Perception is reality.”

Immanuel Kant

“Myth is reality.”

Ted Leonsis, AOL Time Warner executive and Washington Capitals/Wizards owner

“Corporations, like people, change their names for one of two reasons: Either they’ve gotten married, or they’ve been involved in some fiasco that they hope the public will forget.”

Peter Lynch

“What Ray Kroc understood at McDonald’s was that the hamburger wasn’t his product. McDonald’s was.”

Michael E. GerberThe E-Myth Revisited

“Let [companies] spend the same amount of money improving their product that they do on advertising and they wouldn’t have to advertise it.”

Will Rogers

Chapter 6: Keeping Your Ace in the Hole (Sometimes)

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Let me repeat that. You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale CarnegieHow to Win Friends and Influence People

“If you wait for people to finish speaking before you interrupt, 90% of the time, your question will be answered by the time they finish speaking.”

–Poster in Ms. Stein’s fourth-grade class at Beverly Farms Elementary School

“I’ve lost money so fast in these clubs it’s left me reeling. I’ve read every poker book ever written, but the only way to get better at the game is to go out and play with people who are really good. The problem is, you stand to lose a lot of money doing it.”

–Matt Damon, who, along with Rounders co-star Edward Norton, was quickly eliminated from the $10,000 main event at the World Series of Poker in 1998

“Skill is fine, and genius is splendid, but the right contacts are more valuable than either.”

Sir Archibald McIndoe, plastic surgeon

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

Jimi Hendrix

Chapter 7: Strip Poker

“It’s hard work. Gambling. Playing poker. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Think about what it’s like sitting at a poker table with people whose only goal is to cut your throat, take your money, and leave you out back talking to yourself about what went wrong inside. That probably sounds harsh. But that’s the way it is at the poker table. If you don’t believe me, then you’re the lamb that’s going off to the slaughter.”

Stuey Ungar, three-time World Series of Poker champion

“Ah like you, son, but ah’ll put a rattlesnake in your pocket, and ask you for a match.”

Amarillo Slim, 1972 World Series of Poker champion

“What we learned from our move to Dolton [from downtown Chicago] is that not everyone will be happy for you when you make a success of your life. I’m constantly reminding Donovan that although he’s enjoyed great popularity, not everyone’s happy for him. They’ll boo him if given the chance, and they’ll say ugly things about him. What’s important to understand is that it’s going to happen and not let it rattle you or stop you from being the person you are.”

Sam McNabb, father of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

Gore Vidal, author

“How to succeed: Try hard enough.

How to fail: Try too hard.”

Malcolm Forbes

“I attribute Intel’s ability to sustain success to being constantly on the alert for threats, either technological or competitive in nature. The word ‘paranoia’ is meant to suggest that attitude, an attitude that constantly looks over the horizon for threats to your success.”

Andy Grove, cofounder and chairman, Intel


Chapter 8: Pump It or Dump It: Executing

“If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”

Warren Buffett

“Always leave them coming back for more.”

Milton Berle

“More than 17 million customers in 160 countries have made Amazon.com the Web’s leading online retail site. Seventy-three percent of orders in the fourth quarter of 1999 were from repeat customers…[Jeff] Bezos has made customer focus his mantra: ‘We listen to the customer. We also want to innovate new services on behalf of the customer. Companies often get that wrong. They don’t develop what customers want,’ he says, adding, ‘We want to become earth’s most customer-centric company. We will raise the bar on customer service for all companies. What Sony did for Japan–making Japan known for quality–was bigger than a company goal. It’s a mission.’”

Princeton University website

“It seems like everyone in Hollywood wants to be something they’re not. The actors want to be directors; the directors want to be producers; the producers want to be studio chiefs; and the studio chiefs want to be actors–or even worse, friends with the president of the United States. The caliber of movies would be so much higher if everyone just stuck to what they did best.”

Anonymous, talent agent, Beverly Hills

“The thing about being a writer is you’re always expected or asked to do something other than just write. No one wants to accept that that is what you do.”

John Irving, novelist

Chapter 9: Coping When the Chips Are Down

“Being wrong is acceptable, but staying wrong is totally unacceptable. Being wrong isn’t a choice, but staying wrong is…That’s true whether you’re playing poker or investing. In either case, the key is managing the downside.”

Mark Minervini, investor and president of Quantech Research Group

“Every failure is a blessing in disguise, providing it teaches some needed lesson one could not have learned without it. Most so-called failures are only a temporary decision.”

Napoleon HillThe Law of Success

“When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep.”

Ursula K. LeGuin

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”

John F. Kennedy

A poker game between Johnny Moss and Nick the Greek in 1951 is said to have lasted five months and ended with the Greek’s legendary line, “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.” The Greek is thought to have lost $2 million in the game.

Chapter 10: Marking Cards: Cheating and Ethics

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach

“The code of a professional states that friendships and sympathy don’t belong at the Poker table, and a pro may do anything to try and get his opponent’s money as long as he does not actually cheat. However, I’m not so sure that the majority of pros would not cheat if they knew how to do so without being detected.”

John ScarneScarne’s Guide to Modern Poker

“Contemplating any business act, an employee should ask himself whether he would be willing to see it immediately described by an informed and critical reporter on the front page of his local paper, there to be read by his spouse, children, and friends. At Salomon we simply want no part of any activities that pass legal tests but that we, as citizens, would find offensive.”

Warren E. Buffett, then Chairman, Salomon Inc.

“Do not do or say things you would not like to see on the front page of The Washington Post.”

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense

“We already have our principles; we just compromise them when the going gets tough. Compelling personal circumstances test us, but they are not justification for compromising principle. Not stealing bread when you’re starving is the challenge. Hunger does not change the principle that stealing is wrong. Ad hoc application of principle is moral relativism.”

Marianne M. Jennings, Arizona State University

Chapter 11: Becoming a World-Champion CEO

“Yes, investors in well-led companies need to realize the importance of the individual. Will General Electric be a good investment after Jack Welch retires? Was IBM a good investment before Lou Gerstner? The world has seen Apple without Steve Jobs, and Berkshire Hathaway before Warren Buffett…One person can make a very big difference. Most of the time, in fact, that’s the only way very big differences ever get made.”

Rob Landley, fool.com

“There is a time for all things, but I didn’t know it. And that is precisely what beats so many men in Wall Street who are very far from being in the main sucker class. There is the plain fool, who does all the wrong things everywhere, but there is the Wall Street fool, who thinks that he must trade all the time. No man can always have adequate reasons for buying or selling daily–or sufficient knowledge to make his play an intelligent play.”

Jesse Livermore, “Boy Wonder” of Wall Street in the early 1900s

“One old friend once summed up [jockey Bill] Shoemaker’s basic attitude this way: ‘There’s got to be a winner, so why shouldn’t it be me? The tactics are those of a good poker player. He sizes up his opposition and adjusts to the changing situation, with the self-discipline of the born winner.'”

William MurrayThe Wrong Horse, in an essay titled “The Sportsholic”

“Believing you’re going to be boss is the first step.”

Muhammad Ali

Chapter 12: Managing Your Bankroll

“[George] Soros has taught me that when you have tremendous conviction on a trade, you have to go for the jugular. It takes courage to be a pig. It takes courage to ride a profit with huge leverage. As far as Soros is concerned, when you’re right on something, you can’t own enough.”

Stanley Druckenmiller, CEO, Duquesne Capital Management

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”

Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in the movie Wall Street

If you are not a winning player, your bankroll will never be large enough. To completely eliminate the possibilities of ever going broke, losing players need a big enough bankroll to outlast their life expectancy.”

Lou KriegerPoker Digest columnist and co-author of Poker for Dummies

“See, in my world–the world of high-stakes gin and poker–we play for cold, hard cash. It’s all business, pure and simple. Anyone who thinks cardplaying is a ‘game’–I’ll show you a loser. Money…M-O-N-E-Y. That’s how you measure success. One dollar at a time. One chip at a time. That’s how you keep score.”

Stuey Ungar

“Cash is king.”

Donald Trump

Chapter 13: Selling Your Hand

“How long does it take to learn poker, Dad?”
“All your life, Son, all your life.”

Reader’s Digest

“I think that we all are in the right place at the right time almost every day. It’s the people who are prepared to be lucky who can take advantage of being there. How do people position themselves to be lucky? It was Goethe who said, ‘Anytime that you take the first step toward trying to achieve something in life, all manner of good things will mysteriously fall into your path to help speed you along your way.’ Amen to that!”

Phil Hellmuth, 1989 World Series of Poker champion

“If you network hard for thirty-five years and build pivotal contacts in strategic areas of business, you can become an overnight success.”

Harvey MackaySwim with the Sharks

Chapter 14: Ante Up: Choosing the Right Business

“If you want to make a lot of money annually, then you can always make good grades at a top business school like Harvard, and then go to work for a place such as Merrill Lynch. They’re going to pay you two or three hundred thousand a year… You’re never really going to gain wealth. If you really want to gain wealth, you have to build equity. You have to get into industry. There are two traditional ways to do that. You could go work for someone else, hopefully work your way to the top and get stock options. Or, you could work for someone else, learn the industry, and then quit and start your own.”

–Billionaire David Halbert, founder of AdvancePCS

“I’ve always had confidence, but I never let my ego get to the point that I think I’m the superstar, because I know that ego has destroyed many a poker career.”

Jim Boyd, modern-day road gambler

“Entrepreneurs average 3.8 failures before final success. What sets the successful ones apart is their amazing persistence. There are a lot of people out there with good and marketable ideas, but pure entrepreneurial types almost never accept defeat.”

Lisa M. Amos, Tulane University business professor

After a flight that required an emergency landing in the early 1980s, Ted Leonsis made a list of 101 things he wanted to do with his life. No. 65 was to go one-on-one with Michael Jordan. In 2000, Leonsis and Jordan became business partners. When asked how he convinced the century’s greatest athlete to run the lowly Washington Wizards, he said, “I asked him.” Then on The Oprah Show in 2001, Leonsis said, “If you write it down, you have a road map. It seems the steps to get there are easier.”

“If I try to teach my kids anything, it’s to have a vision and try.”

Michael Jordan

Chapter 15: Getting Your Stake

“There are a few things that are essential to success in both trading as well as playing gambling games as a business…you have to understand gambler’s ruin–not playing too big for your bankroll. It might seem that if you have an edge, the way to maximize the edge is to trade as big as you can. But that’s not the case, because of risk. As a professional gambler or as a trader you are constantly walking the line between maximizing edge and minimizing your risk of tapping out.”

John Bender, hedge-fund trader

“The ‘Wonderful Paradox’: I have more fun and enjoy more financial success when I stop trying to get what I want and start helping others get what they want.”

Spencer Johnson and Larry WilsonThe One Minute Salesperson

Chapter 16: Valuing the Game

“…Virgie once told me, [Johnny] Moss had inevitably gotten involved in a poker game on their wedding night. So confident was he of winning one pot that, after running out of money, he reached behind him to his bride, felt for her left index finger without taking his eyes off the table, and started tugging at her engagement ring. Virgie disentangled herself from his grasp, removed the ring herself, and handed it over. ‘If’n Ah hadn’t,’ she said, ‘Johnny would’ve ripped mah whole finguh off.’”

Anthony Holden, Big Deal

“The idea is king, and the studios own any brainstorms people develop while on their payroll. It is a concept not lost on Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, who has said throughout his career that good material is the most valuable asset a movie company can have.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring, or hard and impersonal, fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just.”

Lou Krieger

“The game [of poker] represents the worst aspects of capitalism that have made our country so great.”

Walter Matthau

Chapter 17: Deuces Wild: Building the Right Partnership

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Harry S Truman

“The best method of overcoming obstacles is the team method.”

Colin Powell

“Marriages may come and go, but the game must go on.”

Felix Unger (Tony Randall) in The Odd Couple

“Effectively working with others really is an art. Being in the limelight appeals to almost everyone, but cooperation, not competition, is at the heart of win-win relationships. Win-win means agreements or solutions benefit and satisfy all parties–not your way or my way, but a better way.”

Stephen CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Chapter 18: How to Be a King and a Queen

“Whether he likes it or not, a man’s character is stripped at the poker table; if the other players read him better than he does, he has only himself to blame. Unless he is both able and prepared to see himself as others do, flaws and all, he will be a loser in cards, as in life.”

Anthony Holden

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.”

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India