Poker Isn’t An Investment — But It Can Make You A Better Investor

If you’re interested in forex trading, chances are you’ve spent some time exploring a variety of alternatives to traditional stock market investing. Any number of things can come up in this kind of search, and these days that can include online poker and other forms of gaming. People try to make money in all kinds of different ways online today, and many don’t mind trying to have some fun while they’re at it.

Poker, we should be very clear, should never be regarded as an investment method. It’s a game and one that involves skill and luck alike. Even the most sophisticated artificial intelligence programs that have been designed to “learn” poker are subject to losing hands due to pure chance, meaning the average human player is even more at the mercy of luck. Money can be made, certainly, and players can learn how to improve their odds. But nothing this uncertain can be described properly as an investment.

As much as this may be the case though, poker still serves as a training mechanism for investors, and in fact, can be quite effective at instilling important habits and tendencies such as these:

Learning to trust a process

It’s often said that trying to “time” the stock market is a bad strategy for investors. The same is generally true in forex, even if things move a little more quickly and day trading inherently involves a little more in-the-moment decision-making. By and large, investors in all legitimate markets do better when they establish strategies and processes that allow them to make sensible decisions with an eye on the big picture. Poker teaches the same concept. As they improve, players learn not to try to earn their winnings in a single appealing hand or game. Rather, they stick to their processes and play in such a way as to maximize profits over time.

Avoiding uncontrolled “highs”

When you’re learning how to win poker games, one of the most crucial things you figure out aside from actual game strategy is that it’s important not to let an emotional high take over. Winning a hand, game, or tournament is undeniably thrilling. Succumbing to that thrill for more than a moment, however, is psychologically distracting, and often leads to careless decisions moving forward. For this simple reason, players learn to control those “highs” and remain level-headed. Traders in forex or any other market can benefit from the exact same tendency when they see investments going well.

Avoiding lows as well

The point above applies to emotional lows also. It’s natural for a poker player to get discouraged over a big loss or a game that just doesn’t seem to go right. But getting too down may lead a player to pull out of a winnable game, or else make overly conservative decisions to avoid further losses. These are cautious tendencies, but not necessarily strategic ones, which is why “lows” should be avoided as well. Again, the same principle applies pretty directly to investing.

Learning when to get out

Forex traders become familiar early on with the concept of stop-loss, which was touched on in a prior post here on high-probability trading strategies. It’s essentially an order you can put in to withdraw a given investment at a given low point, so as to avoid greater losses. Poker players don’t have access to this kind of built-in tool, but they do get quite a lot of practice at knowing when to stack up their chips and leave. The method may be different, in other words, but poker teaches players to focus on the long term and cut losses now and then. It’s an important mentality to be able to tap into when setting stop-loss limits.

Valuing work over intuition

A more general point that sums up or encompasses much of the above is that poker players also have a way of learning to trust their work, preparation, and processes more than their intuition. When you play poker for the first time, you’re likely to make decisions based on how strong you feel your hand is. When you become a more seasoned player, you’ll tap into mathematical odds, patterns you recognize in your opponents’ play, and more, trusting knowledge and preparation more than your feelings or any general vibe. It’s much the same pattern that a lot of investors take toward more strategic practice, and learning the ropes in poker may just speed up your process in the market if you choose.

If you feel you could stand to improve in any of these areas, poker might just help you do so before you invest any more in a real market.

“If you don't find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”

- Warren Buffett


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