Here’s a post my friend Art Sobzcak sent out this week. Really good points on those characteristics top performers exhibit — controlling their emotional state.

Sales Lessons From a World Champion Poker Player


I had dinner with world champion poker player,author, and Celebrity Apprentice finalist, Annie Duke last weekend. Well, me and 10 other people. My friend and client, Mike Faith, CEO of regularly holds “Reserve Dinners,” where he brings in a celebrity or business titan, invites a small number of individuals to participate and socialize with the head guest.

Annie is a fascinating person, much deeper than what someone might stereotype a poker player to be. She attended Columbia University, earned a double major in English and psychology, and left grad school just short of getting her Ph.D in psycholinguistics. She has won over $4 million playing poker, now is involved in a start-up company, and has a new book coming out next month.

At our dinner, Annie spoke about poker strategies, her career, parenting, business, her charity (The Decision Education Foundation), and Celebrity Apprentice.

Interesting Image

What was especially interesting was her explanation of what often separates the top poker players from the others. It’s what is known as “tilt” in poker circles. It’s a term used to describe the negative emotions a player might feel after a “bad beat.” A bad beat is when you were dealt a great hand of cards and fully expect to win. However, against big odds, an opponent is then luckily dealt a card or two and beats you. The negative emotions that linger and then cause a player to subsequently make bad decisions on the following hands is called “tilt,” and typically results in big losses.

Of course as I’m listening to this, I’m thinking about how it relates to sales.

Perhaps you’ve felt something like this:

Maybe we feel that we have a sale in the bag…perhaps one that we have worked very hard with, fully expect it to close, and project it as such. However, bam, the rug is pulled from beneath us at the last moment, very unexpectedly. We feel gut-punched. The wind is knocked out of us. Then we let it affect us negatively on our next calls. Our attitude is deflated, and that manifests itself in our tone of voice, rate and level of activity, even our ability to string words together coherently. We are experiencing “sales tilt.”

To be an effective poker player and combat tilt, Annie suggests what really amounts to taking personal responsibility for our own actions, and also giving credit where it is due. For example, poor players who tilt regularly tend to blame their losses on outside influences such as luck and superstition. For example, they say,” I can’t believe I was just beaten by the worst player in the world, with the greatest amount of luck ever possessed by someone.”

However, when they win, it is all them. All skill. Of course, there is a disconnect there. Duke suggests that even the worst player at a table probably does something better than you, even if it is just one thing. You can’t totally blame luck. What you can do is analyze what you did, and what you might have done differently. And also analyze what the other player did well, learn from it, and