Is bluffing just business, or is it bad business?

Bluffing in business can be risky. Here’s how to use techniques from the poker table in your next deal

Everybody knows poker is so much more than a game of luck. Skillful players understand the importance of betting correctly and of choosing the right type of tables.

But what about bluffing? Is it a legitimate strategy or should it be considered a poor choice that will most likely lead to losses? The answer to this question depends mostly on who you are and how you play.

There is a lot more to poker bluffing than you might have originally thought, and therefore you should start by learning more about how bluffing works in order to decide whether or not it will be worth your while to use in business.

How to bluff in poker

When a player bluffs he is in essence using different moves and techniques to make the other players believe he has an unbeatable hand, while in reality he might be sitting with a lousy low pair.

It takes guts to pull this off. Even if there are rules, and players don’t engage in schemes, betting an entire life’s savings on a bluff will still cost money to lose bets, even at tables with lower stakes.

For a small business owner, you may want to give the impression your company is bigger than it is in order to win a deal you know you can deliver.

If you are going to bluff and bet as if you have a really great hand, you need to make sure you’re facing a crowd that gets the signals. Bluffing at a table with beginner players is rarely worth your while since they might not even be paying attention to what your aggressive play might indicate. The same applies to bluffing with a potential customer.

As well as signaling a great hand you also learn more about your counterpart to be able to understand how they are reacting to your actions. This is a method that takes time and practice.

If you are going to bluff, be prepared!

Much like playing poker online you don’t need to worry about a poker face if you’re taking a call or dealing with an online enquiry. People will judge your hand based on your actions. But once you meet, the poker face comes into play and you will find yourself also being able to read possible bluffs through other players’ countenances.

In fact, if you have a look at newer research regarding eye position you might be able to catch the bluffer. Research from The University of Melbourne in Australia has come to the conclusion that eye position can show what numbers we are thinking about.

According to the study, we code the numbers we think about in space. By thinking of the numbers in a left-to-right oriented line, our eyes will, without us noticing, be positioned according to our thinking.

For example, if the eyes are positioned to the left and down it would indicate that the next number would be smaller than the previous. The opposite movement would mean the opposite. The amount of eye movement would reflect the size of the numerical shift in mind, and so on. Such subtle ‘tells’ could reveal far more about you than you’d intended, but equally, a flicker in your counterpart’s eyes may make all the difference when it comes to talking numbers.

Bluffing is part of the business game

For many, bluffing is simply part of the game as well as something that offers a lot of excitement. The satisfaction you will get from winning with a lousy hand thanks to tricky betting can be so gratifying you may be willing to take the risk. However, while this works on the poker table, if you fail to deliver on a promise in business you won’t get repeat custom.

Poker games are a lot about psychology, so much so that university researchers are using the game to delve deeper into the psyche of scheming Machiavellians who are individuals often known to act in manipulative and amoral ways.

In poker one has to be able to control the action in order to do well and therefore it is a game that reveals a lot about our psychology. Having a need to control, though, is not necessarily beneficial when you are trying to bluff, since such a player might find it hard to control himself when others are slow-playing him, and by getting frustrated he’s going to blow his own cover. The same is true in business. Once you’ve set out your position you will have to stick to your guns or reveal your hand.

When it becomes bad business

If you are bluffing for the fun of it but aren’t making money on it you might want to consider taking a break. Compare the amount of times you won by bluffing to how many times you lost and then consider whether your enjoyment justifies the losses.

Finding the balance is crucial. The ideal is for you to be successful so that bluffing can remain good business throughout every negotiation you participate in!


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