Clearwater Fine Foods came about because John Risley was unlucky as a real-estate agent.

Poker is a game in which players with superior strategic thinking have the ability to excel and make it to the top. The best players in the business don’t get to the final tables of esteemed poker tournaments on a regular basis through sheer luck, they do it through skill and perseverance. However, no matter how good a player is, some aspects of the game are determined by chance. Players need to strike the right balance between when they allow situations to be determined by luck and when they stick to their optimum strategy. The same philosophy can be applied to business.

The Balance of Luck and Strategy

AI machine Pluribus learnt from its mistakes to master poker.

There is a reason why artificial intelligence has been able to get to a stage where it consistently beats expert poker players at the game. It’s because it has managed to implement a fully optimised strategy and reduce elements of luck within the game. It is also able to operate without having to deal with human emotions which lead to being tilted, or wanting to get one over on a certain opponent. While players like the Canadian Daniel Negreanu have managed to get to the top levels of the game, even they make mistakes from time to time and allow elements of chance to decide their fate.

According to professional poker trainers who specialise in all facets of the game from Texas Hold’em to Omaha Hi-Lo, poker mental strategy is the most important aspect of the game. It is important to understand that you’re going to make mistakes at some point, and this is simply part of the game.

If players choose to dwell on the fact that they made a mistake rather than work out ways to avoid doing it again, they increase their chances of making more mistakes in the future. This is something which the AI machine Pluribus was able to avoid doing. It made mistakes like any other player while mastering the game, but learnt from them and reduced the risk of making them again.

It is also important to consider that there will most likely be some elements of chance involved in a poker tournament. Players need to make calculated risks as to when to leave an outcome to luck, though, and make sure that they always try to skew the odds in their favour by playing a statistically optimised strategy.

Why is Strategy so Important in Business?

Rob Yong is one of the many businessmen who also play poker.

Before entering a tournament like the World Series of Poker, professionals have a strategy mapped out about how they will play in different stages of the competition. They may decide to start off conservatively as they analyse the way the other players are playing. They will plan to see as many flops as possible when the blinds are low, and then wait to play position as the stakes get higher. As the tournament progresses, the player may then choose to up their levels of aggression.

People getting into business need to have a similar plan of action, and the lack of a detailed business plan is one of the main reasons why businesses fail. Poker players and business people alike need to have a clear idea about how they are going to stake their money in the early days and build up their stacks. A business person would start with a certain amount of capital, and then look to build this up over time. When the funds available to the business rise, other investments and improvements can be made to generate even more income.

Business people need to think about how they are prepared to deal with factors that are outside of their control as well. This could be compared to situations like bad beats in poker. Poker players have to know how to deal with these unfortunate instances and try not to get tilted. A similar circumstance in business could be a store’s central heating breaking down in winter. Is there a plan in place to deal with an eventuality like this?

What Factors Cannot Be Controlled?

When looking at successful businessmen who have had to deal with factors out of their control, Halifax-born John Risley is a perfect example. The Nova Scotia billionaire is now one of the best-known business people on the planet, with interests in fisheries, food supplements, and communications.

Risley wasn’t always doing so well, though, and when he started out his career as a real estate agent there was a slump in the housing market. Similarly to how a poker player might deal with a table of aggressive opponents, Risley had to quickly change up his business strategy. He identified the fact that he had to get out of the housing market, and opened a lobster business in Bedford. This later became known as Clearwater Fine Foods, one of the largest international food businesses in the world. Risley started off small, and managed to build his stack up steadily over time. Within 30 years, the company had a fleet of 21 vessels.

When going into business, there are many factors which essentially come down to luck or chance. When these situations arise, it’s how business owners deal with them which determines whether they will be able to continue. Risley couldn’t have anticipated a housing slump but, when it happened, he quickly shifted his focus.

Along with ever-changing markets, few young businesses can choose the location in which they start up. But business owners can use this to their advantage as well. Risley, for instance, realised that his location gave him access to top-quality seafood in abundance. If the business is near a new highway it could also be beneficial.

In poker and business, no matter how good the strategy is, there will always be factors that can’t be controlled. Poker players and business people need to be prepared for any eventuality. It’s how they deal with bad fortune that defines whether they succeed in business or on the felt.


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