I used to love to play Texas Holdem Poker. I still do, but I also have to know when something starts to become habit forming and possibly not healthy. Believe it or not, but there are a lot of things that investors can learn from poker players that will make you a better investor in the long run. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Here are ten attributes that I wanted to highlight on how to invest like a world class poker player. There are some great insights that can be drawn from the world of poker and applied directly to investing. Here are a few of my favorites.
Know When To Hold’em
Like the classic Kenny Rogers song, The Gambler, you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. Of course, Kenny was talking about the cards that you have in your hand. But, the same can be said for stocks or even mutual funds. You have to know when to keep them and when to sell them. Do you have a strategy? Did you buy a certain stock for a certain reason and you’re waiting for it to pan out? These are all things that you need to consider when investing just like a poker player thinks about when he or she sits down at the poker table to play.
Know When To Fold’em
There is no shame in calling it quits with a certain investment that did not pan out. It is often better to live to fight another day than to go down in complete flames with all of your money. Jim Cramer recommends in his book, Mad Money, to set a certain percentage (say 10%) of a loss as a trigger for you to automatically sell a position that you have in a company’s shares. While Cramer’s book isn’t one of my top ten personal finance books that should be on your bookshelf, it is definitely well worth a read especially for people investing in individual stocks.
Play With The House’s Money
This is one of my favorite things to do when investing. I will often sell a position that I have had a lot of success with and get back my initial investment. Then, I will let my profits continue to run. This is playing with the house’s money, the casino’s money or other people’s money…not your’s. This is also akin to using the interest that you earn from an investment to earn passive income and reinvest the proceeds into new investments. This is exactly what I do to earn a passive income with Lending Club.
Patience Is The Key
It takes patience to land on that incredible hand in poker. If a player is playing tight or only playing the best pair of cards, he or she could wait a while to strike. The same of course can be said for investing. You may have to stalk a company waiting for a pull back of its stock price to pounce on it. You may have to be patient to let your strategy play out.
Stick To Your Strategy
Poker players have a game plan when they go into a game or a tournament. You need an investing game plan too. One thing that Warren Buffett is famous for is sticking to his strategy. He buys shares of stock for a reason and is a long-term investor. While he is not a buy and hold forever type of investor, he certainly has an idea of what he is looking for in a stock and an exit strategy. Do you think about triggers that will signal to you when to sell a stock. If I buy shares for a certain reason and then that reason plays out or simply doesn’t, then that is a great signal for me to sell my shares. I often look for a 10% or more return in the shares that I buy with my “fun money” account. I typically have about 5% of my total investment portfolio available for me to pick a few individual stocks and take a more agressive approach to investing than I do with my Roth IRAs and 401k retirement plans which are all invested in good growth stock mutual funds and index funds mirroring the S&P 500 index.
Skill vs. Luck
There have been a lot of academic studies that have been conducted around whether or not poker is a game of skill or a game simply of chance. There is a reason that world class poker players like Doyle Brunson and Phil Hellmuth have won multiple tournaments in the World Series Of Poker. It is a game of skill. The same is true about investing. It is a skill that can be taught and learned. With practice, you can be a great investor. You may not be a world class investor like the Warren Buffett and others of the world. But, you can learn to be good though. It is a skill that simply needs to be developed. It can also be a skill that takes a little time to develop as well. So, you shouldn’t be discouraged if your first forays into investing did not turn out as good as you had hoped.
Don’t Get Emotional
One of the worst things that you can do is to get emotional about your investing. It is hard because so many of our hopes and dreams of a great future are tied up into our investments. We are saving money and investing for financial goals like retirement and our children’s college educations. It’s hard not to get emotional because we have such a vested interest. While you can get passionate about your investments, you can’t get emotionally attached to them either. There may come a time when you will need to sell a stock or a mutual fund that you are simply in love with. It may be the best decision to cut it loose and start fresh with a better company or fund.
Learn From Your Mistakes
You’re going to make mistakes, and investing is no different than anything else you do in life. It is about picking yourself up after you get knocked down. You have to get back up on the horse and keep going. Far too many people have taken a beating in the recent recession and called it quits. There will be set back in investing just like poker and everything else. You can’t quit. Now is the time to put your money back into the market if you are sitting on the sidelines. You can recover from your investing mistakes. You can learn from them and should learn from them in order to make you a better investor.
Know Your Risk Tolerance
Do you know your risk tolerance? Are you an aggressive investor? Do you think you are going to throw up every time the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinks by 100 points or more? There are only so many losses that we can take. We all have an internal clock or level of tolerance that we can take. You have to know when to cut a stock or a mutual fund loose and live to fight another day. You should know your risk before you start whether that’s in poker or with investing too. How long until you need your money? If you have a long while until you are going to use the money, then you have the ability to be a little more aggressive with your investments. For example, my youngest son is only six years-old, and his 529 College Savings Plan is invested in an aggressive growth mutual fund because we do not need the money for over ten years. We can weather the funds ups and downs because of our long time horizon. That’s just one example of knowing our risk tolerance.
Know Your Skill Level
Do you think that you are a better than average driver? Do you think that you are better than average in picking stocks or investments? You’re not alone. In fact, 75% of people judge themselves to better than average at most things. It is a bias that we all typically have. The sad truth of the matter is that technically only 49% of us can be better than average. So, it is also important to know when you are in over your head and may need help. I love playing Texas Hold’em Poker, but I quickly learned that I stink. I’m definitely a below average poker player. We should play together for a lot of money, right? That would be good for you and definitely not me. I know my skill level. While I have played in a few small tournaments in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, I know that I could never compete with the big boys at the World Series of Poker even though it is on my bucket list.
So, what do you think? Is investing a lot like poker? Are you an avid poker player? I’d love to hear your thoughts.