top of page

Similarities in Poker and Negotiations


Similarities in Poker and Negotiations

Notes on Negotiation Written by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute


I’ve always enjoyed poker, in part due to its similarities to negotiation: strategy, bluffing, reading others’ intentions, significant stakes, crucial verbal and non-verbal signals, split-second decisions with immediate consequences and feedback, and the list goes on.


So when a friend suggested I read the bestseller Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by former World Series of Poker Champion Annie Duke, I was intrigued.


It was a good book. Surprisingly, it wasn’t really about poker. Instead, it laid out Duke and other successful poker professionals’ approach to strategic decision-making in circumstances involving uncertainty, luck, good and bad outcomes, and unknowable and sometimes unpredictable factors.


In other words, it included lessons that directly apply to negotiations (and to many other aspects of life, too, according to Duke).


Here are my main negotiation-related takeaways (which will also help if you play poker):

The more information you learn before making any strategic decision (like whether to bet, fold, raise, or in negotiations make a first offer, etc.), the better your decision.


Given the inevitable role of luck and uncertainty, a bad outcome does not mean your decision process, poker strategy or negotiation moves were flawed (although we often think it does).


Rarely will any move be guaranteed to succeed – you’re almost always dealing in probabilities and confidence in a research-driven expert decision-making process.


Inherent psychological biases like motivated reasoning, self-serving bias, confirmation bias, loss aversion, hindsight bias, sticking with “truths” despite contrary factual evidence, and others will almost always negatively influence your strategic decisions and ability to learn from your successes and failures.


You can minimize the adverse impact of some of these tendencies with knowledge and new habits, including a) consistently vetting your “truths” and decisions by having a friend ask you “wanna bet” which, in essence, forces you to put your money behind your decisions and conclusions, and b) ensuring a “devil’s advocate” or skeptic plays a part in your strategic planning.


Understanding uncertainty and using scenario planning – starting with a decision or move, figuring out the possible scenarios resulting from that move, and then assessing the probability and desirability that each will occur – helps us make the best moves.


Working backward from a desired outcome (like setting your negotiation goal) and then identifying the steps that will get you there is particularly effective in strategic planning.


Premortems – imagining failure and then working to avoid those elements leading to it – can be very effective.


Improvement comes by learning from experience tied with expertise.


Debriefing and ongoing learning and improving work best when consistently done with a few like-minded individuals in a small group setting.


Latz’s Lesson: Poker and negotiation share many similarities, including numerous planning and debriefing strategies designed to improve our effectiveness.

_______________________________


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts' proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

Comments


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page