In 2015, I was at my wit’s end.
A client screwed me out of money he owed, my freelance writing business no longer felt as fun or exciting as it had before, and it seemed like I was stuck in a creative rut.
Unsure of my next move, I did the smartest thing possible: Quit working for an entire month and spent all my time gaming. It didn’t matter what types of games either (board, card, video, trivia, or brain teasers). I’d just sit and play for hours on end.
It was the best education possible.
In this article, I’ll share the best lessons I learned from playing games. You can then apply these to your own daily life.
The Easiest Money Comes From Gaming Rubes
The easiest way to make money is by finding a table full of bad players and exploiting their mistakes.
While this isn’t exactly how regular businesses work, I will say that it is easier to make money off people who don’t understand things like sales and marketing. These people are quick to buy, and often don’t realize that they’re being pitched on a product.
Case in point, I recently built up a social media account from zero to 600 followers in 30 days.
How’d I do it?
By literally making content that included phrases like “share if you agree.”
When you read lots of books and blogs on copywriting, it’s easy to assume that everyone is familiar with sales and persuasion. But, in reality, only a tiny fraction of the population even knows these things exist.
This is how the highly profitable “outrage industry” (Breitbart, Jezebel, etc) works.
Some writer is paid $20 to pen an article like Why I Hope My Daughter Has An Abortion or Liberals Demand Ban On Straight Marriage, and then angry idiots show up to hate read. Meanwhile, the website’s owner makes a couple of cents off each pageview. It’s low effort content, written for rubes. And, because those people don’t understand basic psychology, they fall for it every time.
99.9% Of People Base Their Decisions On Emotion, Not Fact
Although most activities are dictated by math, the majority of people refuse to believe this!
In gambling, there’s something known as the “Monte Carlo Fallacy.”
Players ignore actual betting odds and make up their own numbers system instead. This happens a lot with games like roulette where each play is completely independent from previous spins.
Additionally, gamblers on a losing streak will always assume that they’re “due for a win” at any moment. Or suffering from “bad luck.” Instead of looking critically at whatever is happening, they fall back on emotion or superstition.
This happens a lot in business too. People start a website or brick-and-mortar store, they face some sort of problem, and then they bury their head in the sand (while taking no responsibility for the issue).
In psychology this is called the Dunning–Kruger effect (Financial Samurai has an excellent post on it), and its bad news. By refusing to acknowledge reality, or self-examine your own weaknesses, you end up making the same mistakes over and over again.
An easy way to avoid this is by keeping a journal on situations that didn’t pan out for you, and ways that you could improve on these events.
This allows you to see where you’re making mistakes, and what you can do to fix them.
Successful People Always Understand Their “Expectation Value”
“Expectation” (another poker term) is the amount of money you’ll win or lose, on average, from a particular bet or action.
There’s quite a bit of math involved in this concept (though it’s all high-school level stuff), so I’m not going to go into detail with the calculations.
If you want the formulas for this, read Small Stakes Hold ’em or Beat the Dealer (fun fact: Edward O. Thorp, the author of this book, was also a successful hedge fund manager and inventor of the wearable computer). These books are math heavy, with a large focus on statistics and probability.
However, I will quickly explain how “Expectation” works and why it’s useful in every type of business.
A positive expectation means that you’re making money (on average) every time you do a specific activity. As such, this is the system most successful people use to determine what’s actually profitable for them.
Warren Buffett has even stated that he uses the same style of calculations for playing Bridge as he does for assessing stocks:
[Bridge] has got to be the best intellectual exercise out there. You’re seeing through new situations every ten minutes….In the stock market you don’t base your decisions on what the market is doing, but on what you think is rational….Bridge is about weighing gain/loss ratios. You’re doing calculations all the time.
Once you know your Expectation, you can test different strategies to raise it. In copywriting and sales, this is how A/B testing works. Marketers calculate their conversion rates, or earnings per click (Expectation), and try improving them.
Before wrapping up this article, I want to mention one final thing. It costs nothing to learn about gaming and master the basics.
Most casino games, like poker and blackjack, are learnable for free (or at penny-ante prices) through social clubs or recreational play with friends.
I also play a lot of cribbage with my dad, and always have board games going on with friends.
This is both a fun hobby and a great way to sharpen your competitive edge.
If you’re looking for a fun, challenging activity, I’d suggest playing more games. They’re good for your brain and help you develop a tactical mindset.