When people say, “Why do you like poker so much?” It, to me, is exactly like living in the world of startups. Except, what we do, our feedback cycles, are elongated over years. In poker, it’s shortened into minutes. And every hand is like, “Okay, I’ve started a company, this company is jack-seven off-suit, not a great company, but let’s see what happens.”
“I’ve just started a company with pocket aces, it’s the nuts, and I fail. Jack-seven, I win.” It’s amazing how you learn to cope with winning and losing, and the swings, and not getting tilted. You see some of these guys, it’s not the first idea, it’s the nth idea.
Zuck had tried Wirehog, he’d tried Synapse; he’d done a bunch of stuff before [Facebook]. It’s the courage to keep trying.
It’s like when you’re learning to play poker. You try to bluff the turn, or the river, and you’ll get called. You’ll feel like a donkey. What do you do the next time? You do it again, and again, and again. And eventually, it works for you.
I play poker once a week. I still love it. I get defeat, ego management, learning to deal with failure, managing and taking risk. It’s the lifecycle of a startup in every hand.
And the thing I also get now, is comradery, particularly after Dave died. I just don’t have many friends. It’s harder and harder to make friends. I don’t have people to spend time with that I trust, that I can open up with.
Good business people make great poker players. Dealing with when you don’t win is such great training for work, where you may not win all the time. You deal with it. “I’m gonna take a deep breath, walk around the block.”
It is a microcosm of life. You get a starting hand, sometimes it’s fantastic, and sometimes it’s not so fantastic. You have to make adjustments along the way, at some point you have to take some fundamental risk, and you either win or you lose.
For me, that is an outlet for just reminding myself how lucky I’ve been.
I really did end up on the right side of the ledger. Despite some turbulence in how I grew up, I got exceptionally lucky and now some things turned out for me. I could have gone to some other company. Instead, I went to work for Facebook, as an example.
Poker is just a very good clarifying function for just how probabilistic life is, and sometimes you can be on the right side or the wrong side. That’s the first thing.
Second thing is, you will think that you have the absolute best of it and you will lose. And sometimes you can lose a small amount of money and, at this point, the way that I play poker, you can lose large amounts of money. And why is that important? Well for me it just basically divorces an emotional relationship that I had early on with money because I grew up so poor. And that allows me to just have a very practical view about what money is, which is just an instrument of change. It’s a lubricant; it allows me to accelerate my worldview. I can make it, I can lose it, and I’m functionally the same person, and my values don’t change.
So that’s why I play poker.