Poker is the gold standard for discussion among people who are “smart.” The complexities of the game and the dynamic interaction with human emotions, bluffing, and things of that sort inspire a lot of interesting discussion.
But startups are rarely like that. They’re more like blackjack: mechanical and menial.
Blackjack is the sort of training ground that I like to provide to everyone around me, myself included. It reminds you that most of the things you deal with are just obvious, mechanical, and painful. It sucks to hit a hard 16 vs a face card, but you would be an idiot to not do so. It sucks to fire someone even though it’s been obvious for awhile that that is the only choice.
Poker has this issue in that you can always justify something afterwards — there was a tell, there was just this feeling, etc. Blackjack provides none of those convenient outs — you either did what the book said or you didn’t. In that way, it resembles startup life far more than poker does.
There is this sense of glamour in poker and in startups — sure, there are those moments that you play a high stakes game of bluff. I’ve done this myself as part of my job on occasion. But the real stuff is far more mundane. Firing vendors, contractors, lawyers, and worst of all, people. Doing things that you know you have to do but don’t want to do.
Hitting the hard 16 is the stuff startups are built on.