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5 Things Bloggers Can Learn From Poker

Posted by on Dec 31, 2010

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.

50 Clay Tournament Pro Series 14g Casino Poker Chips
Poker Chips, Poker ‘n Stuff

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!

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Okay, this is scary. I hadn’t checked in after writing my own end of year post. So imagine my surprise! We both have poker decks in our posts!

Being able to draw meaningful analogies makes for great story-telling and teaching moments. You nailed it, here. I particularly like the comparison you made in point number 4. Not only must you be willing to risk something, you also need to be willing to learn what it takes to realize your potential.

Thanks for continuing your annual Poker lessons. 🙂



January 2nd, 2011 | 8:55 AM

Thanks Mitch. Actually, I stunned myself when I went back to see the other articles and noticed they’re all around this same time period; that was scary as well. 🙂

January 2nd, 2011 | 10:13 AM

Great analogy here… I think bloggers can learn a lot about taking risk from poker. Sometimes you gotta take risk and be vulnerable and honest in your blog posts if you want to make a name for yourself. It’s risky but it’s the only way to make your blog distinguished from other blogs.

January 2nd, 2011 | 12:25 PM

Glad you agree, Henway. At least with blogging it won’t cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in one sitting. lol

January 2nd, 2011 | 1:26 PM

Great poker analogies. I play poker from time to time but never really noticed the connections until this article. Nice!

January 3rd, 2011 | 12:02 PM

Tony, I figure there are a lot of things people do that they can learn lessons from. Poker just happens to be one of those things for me.

January 3rd, 2011 | 12:55 PM

I am so glad I am reading this post today and not a month ago 🙂
Came back from Vegas a few weeks ago and never gambled before so I would not understand the post. But I do now.
I liked all the points you made and I see how you relate these two subjects.
I think my favorite part overall is your #3 point because I love the community I feel a part of. Thanks

January 4th, 2011 | 8:20 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Glad to have you visit, Brankica. You’d never gambled before; wow! Yes, I love the community that’s developed between myself and all my blogging friends; you’re invited to join it as well. 😉

January 4th, 2011 | 11:05 PM
stef@online poker:

I’m just a rookie in this game (poker). My cousin taught me, he is a poker fanatic. I got this idea also, blogging and playing poker is the same…it’s a mind game, all nerves on your brain functions. And it also risky, you don’t know what will be the output of your doings. But I’m having fun of it.

January 6th, 2011 | 1:20 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks for stopping by, Stef. Yup, both offer some interesting comparisons to each other.

January 6th, 2011 | 9:49 AM

Another great, thought provoking post Mitch. I particularly liked point #4. I used to play poker with friends, just for fun. If I took that experince and went to a pro poker tournament, I’d not only loose my shirt but get stripped naked. I’m fairly new to this form of blogging. I’m not trying to make money yet, just learn what I’m doing and develop a readership.

Lots of thought provoking advice here Mitch, Thank you!

January 7th, 2011 | 9:31 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Allan. I kind of like that point as well; sure, I’d like to make money off this blog, but that wasn’t my full intention when I created it. For some people it is, but to really make a go of it they have to let loose some and give more than just, well, information, much of which isn’t even theirs. As for poker tournaments, in August 2008 I wrote here of a poker tournament I was in, that I’d won a free entry into. I didn’t enjoy myself, and in retrospect I wish I’d been thinking of #4 at the time.

January 7th, 2011 | 11:02 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

By the way Allan, the link coming up in you CommentLuv area is going to an invalid page; thought you should know.

January 7th, 2011 | 11:04 AM

I love this analogy type blog posts Mitch!

Thanks!I definitely need to learn how to write
more of these type of blog post.

And while I’m not an active poker player, I can still appreciate your comparisons.

But for sure, both activities require some serious mental preparation.

Thanks for making us aware of their similarities!

May 29th, 2016 | 6:06 PM

Thanks Mark. I tend to think these types of posts aren’t all that hard if you know something else pretty well. There always seems to be lessons that apply to things you do that relate to what you’re writing about or what you do in business. For instance, a couple of things that happened in the last week can be translated into a lack of leadership, a lack of customer service, or a lack of ethics depending on which way I decided to go, and all of those are topics I cover on my business blog. In the same way, I could tie those experiences into a post about blogging or social media; it’s just how I see things.

Give it a shot one day and make sure I get to see what you’ve written; I get it’ll be great! 🙂

May 29th, 2016 | 11:57 PM