by Caspar Berry, Thought-Leader, Entrepreneur, ex-Professional Poker Player and guest speaker at Kent 2020 Vision LIVE 2012
As a young man I never took drugs, bungee-jumped or even placed a bet. Activities associated with risk just never appealed to me. Then, aged 26 – and quite out of the blue – I quit my job as a reasonably successful writer for film and television to become a professional poker player.
This was long before poker became the multi-billion dollar industry that it is today. In 1999, poker was the preserve of a few eccentrics and iconoclasts who had either never known any other “career” or who had dropped out of one because it wasn’t offering them the thrills they dreamed of as a child. I guess I fell into the latter category.
With hindsight, it was the best career move I ever made. I learnt more from three years in Las Vegas than any other single formative experience. Playing poker for 10 hours a day 6 days a week for three years certainly taught me a thing or two about risk and just how little most people understand it.
Most people assume that – as a professional poker player – I was a gambler but the fact is that “gambling” is the act of placing a bet where you have the worst of it. In the long term, if you “gamble” you will lose money. Playing poker professionally is not about gambling but taking a series of “calculated risks” with the aim of making a healthy long-term profit at the end of the day.
Isn’t that the aim in business too?
What poker players call “bets” business people call “investments” but the uncertainty is still there. We live in an increasingly uncertain business world where it is impossible to guarantee the outcome of anything.
In my presentations as a professional speaker, I demonstrate how to bet on the roll of a die and make money – even though you lose five times out of six – and explain why professional sports bettors aren’t looking for the horse most likely to win. The implications of this often changes the way people view risk forever.
Operating a business in the knowledge that you will be profitable in the long run, even though some of your investments will fail, is something that the best companies in the world have known for many years: organisations like 3M, HP, and Google have created cultures that encourage risk taking and accept failure as a necessary part of their calculations. They don’t sweat the short-term any more than a casino manager sweats when someone wins a lot on roulette in one evening: they know that the house will bust them in the end, just as the great company knows that great ideas will always be produced by a healthy culture of innovation and adaptation.
After three years in Vegas, I came home to England and became an entrepreneur and I know that I could not possibly have done this without the knowledge and skills that poker gave me. Which is why it is such a pleasure for me to foster discussions around this area with people in business today, promoting a better understanding of risk and opportunity.
– Caspar Berry is a guest speaker in the lunchtime keynote session on 19th April 2012.
Pre-register now to hear more of his fascinating insights at: www.kent2020.co.uk