What Poker Can Teach Us About Dealing With People

Here is the image that comes up every time someone hears the word ‘Poker’. People with dark glasses sitting on a table, with blaze faces and a pack of monopoly chips on their side. They hold their dealt hand, near empty bear-bottles, and they speak utterances trying to get to each other’s head. Their sole mission is to figure out the million-dollar question — where does their hand stands in relation to other’s and how good are their chances objectively.

But apart from the mathematics and the possibility theories, they have another clue they can base their decisions on. Judging by the reactions and patterns of behavior on the table, they can rationalize the actual hand of other’s players, no matter what they claim it to be. If they are confident in their assumption, they can bet, and if they get it right, even win the round. But inside that little bubble of assessing the truth through the keyhole of micro behaviors, lies the hardest part of the game. Statistics can offer help that cannot guarantee the win on its own.

The Behavioral Patterns

Imagine that the person sitting across from you makes a tiny jolt in his lips sometimes, when he picks the cards in his hands. With time you realize that this is a tiny expression of disgust after getting a pair he doesn’t particularly like. Or maybe he grabs a bit of his drink every time he feels relaxed with the position he finds himself in. All little nuanced behaviors that can pinpoint to the psychology of an individual in a situation.

But at a second level, there are bigger themes on the behavioral level of the game. How does he behave when he has that good hand he was waiting for? Is he blasting the table with a huge raise or is he waiting patiently, like the wolf, for someone to make the move first and then cache in from the little trap? Do his actions change sporadically, trying to add smoke in his patterns and how aggressively is he dealing with the various situations. All these answers can give you insights on someone’s ways of dealing with things and can help you in making the right choices to win the game.

But what is fascinating with poker is that it has many levels. You can’t sit in your chair and wait for a good hand to come to you because people will figure it out. Not only you need to actively participate in it, but you also need to adapt your game to the various personality types that may participate.

Dealing With The Aggressive Type

So imagine a player that always tries to assert his dominance. He plays aggressively on every hand and blows every little chance he gets out of proportion. It can get very dazzling for someone who first meets this kind of behavior, as any little mistake from his part can lead down on big losses. What is the best kind of response in that scenario?

Surely this is a behavior that is quite common in our everyday lives as well, through the people that try to capitalize every little opportunity they get their hands on. They will blame you first chance and try to seize their share of the pie with every possible mean. Not uncommon in highly competitive environments that many people antagonize over a scarce amount of goods. They will pinpoint your mistake at your face, assert their better knowledge on things, and dominate every part of your work that comes in contact with them.

In cases like these, it should be apparent that the most common approach of ‘paying someone with the same coin’, doesn’t quite work as you would hope to. A bad environment would erupt like a volcano, while both of you would throw accusations to each other in an uncontrollable fashion. You would require managers and third-party referees to take a chair on the side and watch your arguments, trying to find a way to compromise on who is right and who is wrong. You would be the dark cloud in a place that everyone else would simply want to finish their work and go home.

It’s not rare to confront these scenarios in our daily lives. It’s the people you laugh yourself at, for finding the smallest things to create chaos out of nothing. Someone said something the other didn’t quite like, or they tried to undermine them with their actions in front of everyone and they ended up being a pain in the ass for everybody. All the while none of them is willing to take any step back to soothe the heat down and instead keep their flag up till some authority comes and puts hard restrains on them. And isn’t this the behavior all kids go through at some point in their lives before they grow up, really?

In these cases, direct confrontation is the worst possible way of dealing with it. You simply can’t fight fire with fire as it will create more of it. What you need instead is to stand down and wait patiently till the right opportunity appears for you to make a move.

In the poker world, having an aggressive player in the table restrict your actions to be much more considerate. You can’t meet his consecutive bluffs by intervening on them randomly because that could turn up against you. You need to play down a bit and wait for a good hand to come along where you can win big time and take advantage of his aggressive behavior.

“You will show your poker greatness by the hands you fold, not the hands you play.” — Dan Reed

Similarly in real life, you can’t reciprocate whatever unjust action you receive from the people around you when you are dealing with the same hostility and aggressiveness. Be smart instead, wait for the right opportunity and then you will get your chance to make apparent to anyone the true nature of things.

Dealing With Safe Players

On the opposite side of the spectrum are the silent players. Those are the less active ones, that stand back on their sits and wait for double aces to come in order to bet anything on the table. And what better opponent can someone dream of, as this is the best opportunity for you to steal all the blinds that accumulate from all the previous rounds and opt-out in the first sign of aggression that comes from his part. It goes without question that if this character makes a move he has something good going on him for sure.

This situation can be quite tricky though in life that doesn’t have the same explicit rules with poker and can be quite abstract sometimes. What does it mean to take advantage of silent players in the real world? How does it convert in the reality we are living in at the moment?

In our daily lives, opportunities come at us constantly but we are too scared to take on them because no one else is making any move either. We simply can’t trust the fact that nobody has seen the chance thus far and we dismiss the idea out of fear of looking stupid. If others don’t chase it, does it mean it is flawed? Is there something wrong we haven’t think of just yet? Who can trust his judgment in such a degree to go against society’s general consensus?

Societal Influence

That is the reason why we are so obsessed to buy products when we learn they are in scarce quantities. We assume other people want them and the demand for them is high. Or to some degree why over-expensive brands create a status-driven game that we find alluring to participate in, like in the way many apple products and artworks do. The mass appreciation for them can intrude into us and persuade us that we need something when in reality it wouldn’t be that valuable. Of course, there are other factors in play that define their value but this social influence can be quite a strong component of it.

And this is where the right approach lies because when these hidden powers are at play and blind our eyes, we miss our chances to grab whatever lies in front of us and what is offered at our plate.

I remember there was a time that I was contemplating starting a blog many years ago before the success examples make their way into the Web 2.0 world. But missing the real-life examples that can show you such a road can be quite disheartening. How could anyone be interested in this? How can you get real money? Where is the distribution coming from? Long story short I missed the chance of getting into this world many years earlier and progressing in the path that actually drives my gears.

The Analytical Type

Besides the aggressiveness levels that can range between a timid shrimp to a shark, there is another string component, of how analytical a player likes to get. Do they sprout out mathematical equations in their head figuring out what are the chances to make a winning move? Do they like to calculate stats based on the mathematical reality at hand? This overly ‘mindful’ kind of player falls under the general category of people that base their whole decision process on science and pure facts. They count the cards within the pack and keep a score of what appears on the board and what they have in front of them. They will only make a move if the numbers are right.

Many times this kind of play feels like the safest choice since you base all your actions in science and logic. Anything else besides pure facts resembles superstitions of traditional minds.

In real life, these are the people that know how to do good research on a topic and bring out the best possible information in it. They will make sure the syntaxis of their sentences is unparalleled and the historical facts straight up to the last detail. Whatever the road they are marching on they want to get it right and be ‘correct’ at all levels.

There is nothing better than meeting such a character in working environments as they are the people you can trust the most. They can be of great service in their work and assist you in everything that is needed in a trustful way. If there is some sort of the ‘Geek’ equivalent into the poker world, then this is it.

But the problem, in this case, is that most of the time they are gonna lose the bigger picture while hunting down meaningless details. They won’t be able to combine general ideas from unconnected worlds no matter how obvious these connections might be and will enclose themselves into the narrow view they hold already.

If this scenario sounds familiar its because there is a very archetypical depiction of these characters in various stories and literary works of the past, like Sherlock Holmes and Watson for example.

“A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.” — Maria Konnikova

Watson is the devoted servant that supports the story through his disciplined work and exemplary dedication. He is intelligent and committed, and he is playing his crucial role in helping Sherlock in a number of things. Yet when it comes to solving the mystery it takes a different kind of understanding to achieve the task.

How To Deal with Them

Analytical types can get tripped by their own supposed strengths. They are too proud of their intelligence and brainpower and forget to pay attention to the various forces at play that might be more important. You can trust that whatever you see from them is what you get as their reality is many times projected to others and they miss the bigger idea. As in poker, their actions are directed by pure logic that is limited to their area of expertise. It’s wouldn’t be strange to mathematically plan out a bluff every few hands for example, independently of what is happening around them. Although they differ from the silent player that deals only with good hands, they can be quite easy to read and they will back down in the first sign of aggression against them.

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