It seems that every year around this time I write a post that talks about poker and blogging in some fashion. In January 2009 I wrote a post called the Psychology of Gambling. In January 2010 I wrote a post titled 5 Ways Poker Is Like Blogging. And in February 2010 I wrote a post titled Pot Odds In Internet Marketing.
Why poker? Many of you know that I love playing poker. I fancy myself a pretty good player but not a great player. However, I’ve studied great players and I can see what I lack that they have. I don’t see me getting a lot of it at this juncture of my life, but one never knows, right?
Like almost anything else, one can learn some interesting ideas on how to do something from another place, or from something that has nothing to do with what you’re doing. In reality, most things are interconnected in some fashion, and if you have the time to consider it, you’ll see the connections, or the potential connections, and hopefully learn something from it.
In this case, I figure the lessons bloggers can learn from poker are something that leads us well into the next year, which begins tomorrow, and thus the timing of this article is pretty good. Of course, you could read this and think I’m just nuts; let’s find out.
1. Poker is about analyzing what’s going on at that moment. If I have an ace and a jack in my hand and the flop comes up king, jack and seven, and the other player bets ahead of me, I have to analyze a lot of things at once. Does he have an ace in his hand? How has he played previous hands? How have I played other hands in this situation? Is the amount he’s betting trying to scare me away, or is he trying to trap me? Can I get a tell from the expression on his face? Has he read my face and figured something out?
In blogging, we often start writing for ourselves, but once people start coming we need to be ready to analyze ourselves from time to time. What types of posts do people seem to like? Is my post too short or too long? Is my language easy to understand or am I talking above people’s heads? Are my visuals okay or am I off-putting some people? Just who is your blog for? The decisions can be just as immediate, and in some cases more valuable than a poker bet.
2. Poker is about paying attention to what’s going on around you in some fashion. Even those people who play wearing headphones and listening to music are paying attention to what’s going on around them. They know if one guy always raises when he’s in the big blind. They know if someone is actually thinking about whether their hand is good or whether they’re trying to trick you into doing something stupid. They watch your hands to see if you change up when you have good hands or bad. They look at your eyes, even if you’re wearing sunglasses, to see what they do. When I’m truly in the zone, I know how every player I can see plays the game, and thus I play really well when I’m paying attention.
With blogging, it’s almost the same type of thing. I notice that when I write a post that’s actually a training tip of some sort it gets a lot of attention from people who don’t normally come to this blog. I know who’s going to visit and comment when I write personal posts. I know that if I’m writing a post about a potential money making venture, whether I made money off it or not, that post is going to do well. And I know which posts probably aren’t going to do all that well either. I have to weigh all that, though, for my own personal balance. All of it helps me grow, and there ends up being something for everyone.
3. If you stay at a table long enough, suddenly there’s a great sense of camaraderie and sharing. It’s funny; you sit down at a table with 8 strangers almost every time you go. There’s a feeling out process and you get to feeling like you know people. They get to thinking they know you. Your guard gets let down, to a degree, and suddenly you find yourself sharing stories and telling jokes and finding out what other people do. You learn that some people have come a long way to play while others are there every day. And, if you’re lucky, every once in awhile you’ll go back to play and actually run into someone you played with before, and it’s kind of a welcoming feeling, which is always nice.
I often say on this blog that if you’re lucky you’ll end up being a part of a blogging community, where there are a group of people you’ll be able to count on for a comment or for support or to write something on their blog that you can participate on. The strange thing about a blogging community is that you have to also realize that very few people who are commenting on your blog now will be there 4 to 6 months later. And it may not have anything to do with you; it just is what it is. But for that moment, those people give you love, you give some back, and it all feels good.
4. Real poker players don’t view chips as money, which is a scary proposition because, unless it’s a tournament, it really is money. It’s that feeling, though, that lets them do things you and I would never consider. For instance, there’s the story of a poker pro named Daniel Negreanu, who won a poker tournament and $1.5 million one day, only to lose all the money the next day playing a cash game. Most of us would have lost our minds but he just saw it as a bad day, and went back the day after and won some of it back.
Many of us view our blogs as an opportunity to make money, which isn’t a bad thing, but blogs aren’t really money. We read this advice saying we must do this or that in order to make money blogging. It’s possible you can make money in those ways, but you might not. Niche blogging might or might not make more money than just writing in general, but if you’re writing for the money instead of for the love it’s not going to come across right to potential readers, and you’ll be wasting your time. Having mailing lists and setting up newsletters you don’t really want to write doesn’t benefit anyone and can be more work than it should be. If you view your blog as only a potential money maker, you’re going to fail; that’s just how it goes.
5. Poker playing, no matter what level you play at, means you have to be willing to risk something. When I play poker I head into it knowing that there’s a possibility I’m going to come home out between $200 and $300. Sometimes I come home way ahead, slightly ahead, or break even. What’s rare is sitting down at a table and winning the first hand, or first few hands. Most of the time you’re going to be down, even if it’s only 2 or 3 dollars, based on ante’s whether you play a hand or not. Like all games, there’s always the risk of losing.
With blogging, losing is kind of a strange way of looking at things. Instead, let’s say things might not go as planned all the time. If you write it people won’t necessarily come unless you work in getting them to come. If you don’t answer comments or make commenting hard people will be reluctant to come, and thus reluctant to read. If you’re writing a niche blog that you define too finitely you might run out of things to say. If you don’t write enough posts people might lose interest.
You have to be willing to take risks every once in awhile. You might have to court controversy to get an opinion out every once in awhile. You might have to rely on spell-check more often to help correct spelling. You might have to re-read your posts on occasion if you realize you make a lot of mistakes. You might have to deal with trolls or spam here and there or loss of a portion of your privacy. And you might have to actually attempt to show people you have some knowledge about something, or are funny, or are entertaining, and that scares a lot of people. You might even have to risk being wrong; gasp!
There was a story on a blog post I was reading a few days ago on Problogger where a guy had started blogging and, though becoming somewhat popular, figured out that he was doing things the wrong way. I’ll never say there’s a wrong way in blogging, but it always depends on what it is you really hope to do later on. What he was doing went against what he later determined was his ultimate goal, so he had to stop, then wait awhile and start over so he could hit his goals. My point is that he took a risk, got part of what he wanted and part of what he didn’t want, and he knew he could always start anew.
There you are; 5 things you can learn from poker as you continue blogging into the next year. All I’m going to ask you to do is be safe tonight as you celebrate heading into the new year, and then head into the new years with guts and glory and success on your mind. Happy New Year y’all!