Millions of people across the globe play poker either casually or professionally. The annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) is evidence of poker’s enduring popularity. What started as a small-time event in 1970 is now an attendance record breaker by the year, attracting thousands of players and viewers across the globe, who all share an interest in poker.
Another attractive point of poker is how much about life, business, and strategy you can learn from the game. Like business, poker is easy to learn but difficult to become successful in. That is why so few players are good enough to win major tournaments like the WSOP. And like successful entrepreneurs we can learn a lot from those who have reached the top. One of the most enduring poker stars of our time, Phil Hellmuth, is a player from which we can all learn a thing or two in these areas. Awarded with 16 WSOP bracelets — the highest number for any poker Hall of Famer — Hellmuth is an excellent example of what it means to be business-savvy, both on and off the poker table.
Who is Phil Hellmuth?
Born in Madison, Wisconsin on July 16, 1964, Hellmuth moved to Las Vegas in his 20s to pursue his poker endeavors. Aside from his success in the game, Hellmuth is notable for his sense of business, turning his Poker Brat nickname into a personal brand and working to inspire other aspiring poker stars. A profile on Phil Hellmuth notes that he has long been one of poker’s top ambassadors, always looking for additional ways to make money away from the felt. Hellmuth’s extra income is from sponsorship deals, which he invests in other ventures. As of 2020, Hellmuth’s net worth is a little over $20 million, and he is referred to as one of the greatest tournament players in the game.
Surprisingly, the secret to his poker success are a few basic but business-relevant principles we can all learn from and apply to our endeavors. Today, we’ll go over these wisdom nuggets that worked for Hellmuth:
We’re not kidding — Hellmuth even has a book titled #POSITIVITY. After all, poker can be a challenging and grueling game, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Hellmuth’s positive outlook on life (and poker!) is something he has attributed as one of his many personal strategies as a world-class poker player.
How does that apply to business and entrepreneurship? A Harvard Business Review article on positive leadership highlights the importance of positivity in driving real innovative growth. Unsurprisingly, optimism at work brings out positive actions and reactions from those around you, catapulting team performance while boosting mental resilience — all of which are crucial to business growth and success.
Acknowledge your flaws
Hellmuth holds multiple WSOP records, but he’s also not without his flaws. Most notably, one of Hellmuth’s nicknames among fans of the game is The Poker Brat, dubbed after some of his misbehaviors during tournaments and games, even when he would misplay a hand. Even so, Hellmuth doesn’t let it get the better of him, acknowledging and apologizing for his faults when he crosses the line. Hellmuth even paid for another player’s WSOP main event buy-in after his misbehavior once.
For business owners and leaders, allowing yourself time and space to self-reflect can help you understand not only aspects of yourself but of those around you as well. Insights from Forbes emphasize self-reflection as a catalyst for a growth mindset in order to be a continuous learner. For people in business, an openness to learn and grow from mistakes is crucial to eventual success and longevity.
Strength from resilience
Hellmuth wasn’t a big name when he first entered the tournament poker scene. Like many aspiring poker pros, his career started with many failures. In an underdog story, the relatively unknown Hellmuth upset two-time defending champion Johnny Chan at 24 years old. For many business leaders and owners, this may be a familiar arc — after all, we’ve all got to start somewhere. And for Hellmuth, the rest is history, though not without its ups and downs. He’s still very active in the poker scene today.
Resilience and passion for the business — no matter the field — are key ingredients to long-term entrepreneurial success. We hope today’s insights from poker bad boy Phil Hellmuth helped spark a similar thirst for success and growth in you. For more business articles do visit our Entrepreneur page
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