How Thinking Like a Poker Player Can Help Improve Your Salary Negotiating Skills

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Some millennials have yet to master the art of salary negotiations. And to those people, we have one simple suggestion: take up poker.

A recent survey by Deloitte found that 48 percent of millennials planned to leave their jobs within the next two years while only 28 percent expect to stay in their current role beyond five years.

Of course, this should come as no surprise as it has been well-documented that millennials enjoy challenging themselves by taking on new roles or changing their career paths.

But while they may have become aficionados of the job interview, some millennials have yet to master the art of salary negotiations. And to those people, we have one simple suggestion: take up poker.

Poker and Life Skills

Poker is many things: a fun way to spend an evening with friends, a potential side hustle (Zynga Poker iOS or Android is legit) that could earn you some cash and a way to improve your math and decision-making skills.

But what many people don’t realize is that poker also helps improve self-confidence and even mental performance. As you are probably aware, confidence is often closely related to a person’s ability to master a skill. And when it comes to poker, the game is all about practice, practice, practice.


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It’s critical that you follow a clear path in your studies if you’re a beginner. Often this involves choosing a basic poker strategy and following it without deviation. While this may seem a tad inhibitive, it will get you in the right mindset, which is essential for building your self-confidence.

Once you’re on the right track, you’ll notice that within a short time, your ability to make snap decisions will improve a great deal. You’ll start thinking ahead and planning strategically, which are skills that while aren’t quite so useful at the negotiating table but will help you a great deal at the office.

Negotiate Like a Pro

When you think of poker, the first thing that springs to mind is bluffing, but this is something that you should avoid at all costs in an interview or job offer scenario. It’s one thing to misdirect your opponent at the poker table and quite another to lie to an employer about your previous salary or responsibilities.

Leave bluffing to the times when you’re playing for a few dollars in the pot and not when discussing your future career. Now, that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the ways that your newfound poker skills can help you negotiate a better deal in salary.

Understand the Value of Your Hand

In poker, it’s essential that you understand the value of your hand and how you can use it to win the game. Likewise, at the negotiating table, you should understand how much value you can bring to the company and play to those strengths.

Even if you don’t bring much to the table as far as skills and qualifications go, you should be able to use what you’ve got to impress the employer. In other words: learn how to play a poor hand well.

Keeping Your Emotions in Check

negotiation skills

Poker teaches you to make decisions based on rational and logical thought rather than emotions. As any seasoned poker pro will tell you, the ability to keep your emotions in check is what separates the average from the great players. At the negotiating table, this means not letting anything the employer says play on your emotions.

They may try to ruffle your feathers a bit and unsettle you, giving themselves the upper hand, or they might stroke your ego in such a way that you’ll accept a lower offer. Remember that all negotiations are like a game of poker: there’s nothing personal about it. Your poker skills will allow you to keep a level head and make the right decision based on the facts at hand and not on some emotional trigger.

Learn When to Fold

One of the most interesting aspects of poker that can affect a player’s success is the ability to know when to fold. It seems like a paradox but knowing when not to play is as critical as knowing when you should. And this skill is applicable to the negotiating table.

Salary negotiations won’t always go your way, so know when to concede on certain items. Do you need those extra three weeks of vacation when the employer has already offered two?

You should also know when it’s time to walk away from the table. It’s unlikely to feel better on the first day of work if a deal doesn’t feel right to you now. Use those poker skills to know when to fold and cut your losses.

Play with Your Bankroll in Mind

Poker players learn fast that playing to a budget helps minimize losses. They set themselves a limit and stick to it no matter what. And this skill translates well into salary negotiations.

Choose a salary range and never drop below the minimum no matter how many perks the employer offers. While this may seem like common sense, many job candidates looking for work lower their salary expectations based on the promise of future earnings or potential promotion. And if the employer doesn’t follow through on their promise, a feeling of resentment grows, and they stop enjoying their work.

Your poker skills will teach you to always keep an eye on your spending, which in this case, means sticking to your salary goals at all costs. And as you can imagine, this is one of the most useful skills you can master. Stick to your guns if you want $50K or a high paying job, and the chances are you’ll get it.

As we mentioned earlier, poker can be many things, and as a cash-making side hustle, it seems like a most intriguing prospect. However, if you’re hoping to make money at it, we should warn you that it takes a hell of a lot of hard practice and dedication.

But when it comes to improving your self-confidence and those negotiating skills, even the newest of players can benefit in no time at all.

Want to get started playing poker for free? Join one of the world’s most popular online poker games with more tables, more tournaments, more jackpots, and more players to challenge than ever before! Whether you prefer casual Texas Holdem Poker or competitive tournaments, Zynga Poker (iOS or Android) is your home for authentic gameplay.

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About the author

Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs
Brian Meiggs is a personal finance expert, and the founder of My Millennial Guide, a personal finance site helping you put more money in your pocket. He helps millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the the future. He regularly writes about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. He has been quoted as a top personal finance blogger in major publications including Yahoo! Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, MSN Money and more.

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