Adjusting your Approach Based on the Situation

By SCN Blog Contributor Josh Silverstone

Although there are many similarities between poker and business, sometimes the strategies contrast. At the poker table, the basic premise is to figure out how your opponent is playing, and then beat them by using a counter strategy. However, the business world is not a zero sum game, and opportunities can easily be win-win. Collaboration amongst teams and partners is the key to success. The following article is below as it was published in Proview Magazine – Winter 2015:

Early on in our career, a business person learns that building relationships is a crucial element to success. Fundamental to this concept is our ability to tailor our communication style. My natural tendency, like many other sales and marketing folks, is a friendly storytelling approach. However, considering that people like what is familiar to them, I try to deliver my message in a way that best relates to the person I’m speaking with.

For example, if I’m talking to a CEO, I use straightforward and concise messaging, whereas when meeting with a CPA, I focus on analytical tools and data driven concepts. The takeaway is that people have certain styles that they prefer. Being successful in business, and in the game of poker requires an understanding of whom you’re dealing with. Players have certain tendencies based on their value of money and understanding of the game.

If you know what to look for, your opponents give you information that helps you read their hand and play optimally against them. Your capacity to consistently win directly relates to how well you figure out what your opponents are doing. The first step is to observe betting patterns to identify where on the spectrum each player falls in terms of passive/aggressive (how they play their cards) crossed with loose/tight (how many hands they play).

Passive: This player is more risk averse, valuing safety and security. Interested in seeing cheap cards, these players hang around, hoping to make a good hand. This player type rarely raises pre-flop or bluffs post-flop. You’ll know someone is more passive because they tend to check and call frequently.

Aggressive: This player is comfortable taking risks. Interested in building larger pots and bluffing. You’ll know someone is aggressive because they tend to bet and raise often. To assess how aggressive an opponent is, pay attention to the quality of their cards at showdown.

Tight: Plays fewer hands and generally continues only with good holdings.

Loose: Plays lots of hands and often continues with marginal holdings.

By identifying your opponent, you can figure out what their bets mean and make the best possible decision against them. In poker, like business, sometimes you make the right choice and things don’t work out. Do not be so attached to immediate outcomes, and focus instead on making the right decision for long run results. Learn the game, play within your means, have fun and start winning!

Here’s an example of how knowing your opponent can help you confidently make profitable decisions against them. A few months ago, I was playing 1/2 No Limit Hold’em at Charlestown Casino. The guy, three seats to my left, was playing very loose aggressive (LAG), showing three complete air bluffs in the last 90 minutes. Simply stated, my strategy against him was to make any kind of hand, bet for value, and then never fold.

I finally had good position with KQ of spades on the button, so I raised to $10 after a couple of limpers. LAGgy then calls along with one other player, and the flop was 6-7-K with two diamonds. This was a good flop for me because I made top pair with a queen kicker. Both players checked, so I bet $25 into a $35 pot. LAGgy check-raised me to $65 and the other player folded.

If LAGgy was a passive player, a check-raise would almost always indicate a very strong hand, and I could easily fold. However, knowing LAGgy tends to overplay his hands and to bluff a lot, I stick to my plan of never folding against him. I re-raise to $130, and he makes a 4-bet re-raising me to $200. At this point, I 5-bet shove all-in for $300. He then folds, and I win a nice pot without showing my cards profiting $235.


Blurb about Josh: Josh has a background as a management consultant, and is now a Pokerpreneur. He plays in tournaments like the World Series of Poker, and coaches players at all skill levels. Josh uses poker as a tool to help organizations raise money, and for businesses to up their game. For more poker strategy and winning mindsets, check out

For those of you interested in the hand described above, you can check out a video replay here: If you’re the type of player who is looking to improve your game, I recommend recording hands you played and sharing them with the poker community. Andrew Seidman brought to my attention it’s better to call in position and let the opponent shove the turn. I made the right read, but by tweaking our betting pattern we can win even more with our hand.