5 Reasons Why a Poker Education is Better than a University Degree
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2015-01-11, by JTringerAs someone who has played poker for years and has an engineering degree from a prestigious university, if someone asks me which of those two were more valuable, my answer is poker by far.
There are many aspects of poker that translate phenomenally to success in the "real-world", whereas much of the university experience becomes useless once you graduate.
It's not a coincidence that top minds on Wall Street also excel at poker. If you had $50-100,000 for an education, here's why you should pick the tables over the school desk.
Lesson 1: Master Emotions, Don't Just Put Up With Them
Look at the majority of students during exam time. They stress out, panic, revert to terrible eating, sleeping, and studying habits, and then do mediocre on the exam. Instead of refining and improving their habits and studying techniques, they repeat this about 8 times during their education, once at the end of each semester.
Contrast that with a poker player. There are easily visible consequences when you get flustered at the table. An angry or unstable player that goes on tilt typically faces heavy losses. This is a lesson that every player learns early on in their poker career.
At that point, you have two choices: play the same way, or make improvements. The winners of poker make adjustments and spend copious amounts of time and energy learning about and understanding their emotions.
Emotional control is important not only in your professional life, but also in your personal life. It's hard to form and maintain deep relationships with those around you if you can't understand and control your frustration and anger at times. Lashing out at others in times of great stress is a sure way to leave yourself isolated and unsuccessful.
Lesson 2: Consistency is Key
In most majors, students will slack off for most of the term except around mid-term exams and final exams. Despite this, a week or two of intense studying can result in a passable grade.
You'd be out of your mind to use a strategy like that as a poker player. Imagine half-assing ten sessions and then playing your A-game for one session. There are a handful of people on the planet who would be able to do that and not lose their shirts.
Over time, a poker player develops the habit of focus and putting forth their best effort on a continuous basis.
Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
The students who do find a job out of school do not usually have the capabilities to continuously put in top quality work and stand out. A poker player, on the other hand, learns to apply that excellence mindset to everything he or she does. This is why many great poker players have become successful at other completely non-related ventures as well.
Lesson 3: Embrace Variance, Focus on the Process
Most students at college or university look at major events as definite occurrences.
Get good grades, graduate, get a job, get married, etc.
But life doesn't go that smoothly. There are always obstacles and problems that will get in the way, most of which are out of your control. Most people get stuck at the impasses, thinking that they must have done something wrong.
Poker players know better.
Even if you get your money in as a 99 percent favorite, you're still going to lose that 1 percent of the time. But over time, as you do the right things, the results will follow. It's that perseverance mindset that you develop after going through downswings that translates to life. The confidence that you are doing the right things, and just because factors out of your control aren't cooperating at a given time, you must persist.
Persistence and determination are two of the most important qualities to achieve success in life, and there is no better teacher than the poker table.
Lesson 4: It's a Heck of a Lot Cheaper
While it's great to have a huge bankroll while learning to play poker, many extremely successful players have started from small deposits of $1,000 or less. Some have even started with winnings from freerolls.
Compare that to a typical university in North America. The cost of a 4 year education can range from $50,000 to upwards of $300-400,000 if you attend a prestigious private institution. Despite these exorbitant costs, your degree won't even guarantee you a job, which means all you're left with is a piece of paper and the knowledge you learned. For many students, those two things are not worth anywhere close to the price they paid.
Not only does poker not cost as much to get started, after the first few months of studying, most players can become profitable. At that point, you're essentially getting paid to learn.
Lesson 5: Education Never Ends
The most important lesson comes last. Poker is full of tales of those who were once on top and regressed to the pack. Winners can become losers just as fast as losers can become winners.
The players you look to emulate, the ones on top of the game year after year are constantly learning and improving to stay ahead.
Compare that with the average student who graduates. Typically that last semester is the last time they will truly focus on learning and improving, which is really sad when you think about it.
There's no better way to put it than Benjamin Franklin did: "Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75."
Regardless of whether you play poker long into the future or not, take the lessons you learn and never stop learning. Education should be a lifelong habit that will issue the greatest rewards you can imagine.
Poker isn't perfect, and perhaps it shouldn't replace traditional schooling. However, consider the true value of what you're getting at the tables and you will see your time and money playing poker in a whole new light.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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