Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-02-27
  A bad omen for running a business
I find a number of parallels between playing poker and running a business. What's in your hand is not always as important as what your opponents think might be in your hand. Like talking with VCs, you might be the next pets.com or the next google.com; but the investment is going to depend on what they think you have; not what you actually have.

So the last two of days we've had some internal tournaments (just for staff), to try out code that isn't quite ready for the public. Its a small group, about 15 or so, so its not like playing against 200 others; but several of the founders and executives are vetrans at this, so there's some competition. I especially watch out for red, since he wrote the book on internet poker, but either he's being nice or not paying attention; cause he hasn't really done that well. I, on the other hand, have won the last two tournaments; the first one by a landslide, and the last one with a pretty strong finish after a few near-death experiences.

Maybe its different when you're playing with real money, the others may not take it as seriously, or I may be taking reckless chances with hopeless hands (like going all in with a 9,10). But as someone said, the odds of you losing are 100% if you don't try.

The frightening lessons (if they apply to business as well), are that bluster and belligerence are more effective than caution and patience. I might have nothing, but all I have to do is push a large stack of chips out there and watch everyone else back off. If there are some other hold-outs, I just have to keep at it and eat their lunch once in a while when I actually have something. Also, by never backing down when others are trying to bluff (or have some good cards), I lose a few chips when I don't have much in my own hand, but I establish that anyone else trying to bluff is going to lose.

And once you gain the upper hand, its a big advantage. Having 3X more chips than anyone else lets me throw my weight around and make others think twice before standing up to me. Now, that's not to say that someone else won't have good cards. But if I can push them out of the hand before they know those cards are good, then the battle is over before its started.

Right now I'm trying to get a startup to the point where it has the upper hand, and there is some sense of urgency for others to get in or get left behind. One the technical side I have the momentum, but its the business side that needs some work, and that's the side I like less. Unfortunately, its time to roll up my sleeves and wade in, pushing on the hesitateors to get them to take some action, or get out of the way. Waiting patiently for something to happen is a sure path to defeat. I just hope I can succeed while avoiding being belligerent.

 
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