I’m a poker player and have been for over 20 years. These days, I get away to play once a week at a nearby Indian casino – maybe twice a month with friends in a house game that has been going for over 35 years – and once a month friends, and friends of friends from work get together and hold a mini-tourney.
But in years past I spent many hours a week playing online poker.
This past Friday (April 15, 2011 – hereby known as Black Friday), the Department of Justice took it upon themselves to “crack down” on internet poker. Three sites, two of which were my sites of choice, are now blocked from any American traffic.
I won’t go into the politics of this action. There’s enough discussion already circling the internets.
What I would like to discuss is how aspects of playing poker translate to the business of podcasting. After some thought, I came up with 16 things that poker and podcasting had in common.
No Matter How Many Games You Play, It’s All One Long Game
Poker is a learning experience and so is podcasting. Through the course of your podcasting career you may host many different shows. And throughout those shows you’ll always be learning something new.
It’s 80% Skill and 20% Luck
Poker isn’t gambling – it’s a game of skill with an element of luck involved. Podcasting is a learned skill but you’ve also have to have a little bit of luck to make it a success. Maybe it’s the interview with a celebrity in your field or a mention on another blog or podcast that catapults your audience numbers. There are a lot of unknown, skillful podcasters out there just waiting for that certain something to happen. But it’s true that the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.
You don’t plan how a poker tournament will play out. You also shouldn’t plan too hard on what direction your podcast is going to take. A podcast is a living thing. Don’t force it into a certain direction if it’s naturally taking it’s own course.
Someone Is Always Better Than You
Don’t get cocky or smart-mouthed if your show takes off. Believe me, podcasts can crash just as easily as they become popular. Your show can be the flavor of the day today and then lose it’s audience to a better show tomorrow.
There’s a saying in poker, “Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose.” The same goes for podcasting. Keep track of what you’re spending on equipment and advertising. Podcasting is a medium that you can do for free if need be.
Be careful in chasing the elusive perfect sound by purchasing expensive equipment and software. Podcasters can be notorious gear hounds suffering from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Plan out what you need then use it to it’s best affect. Don’t just purchase something because other podcasters uses it.
Just Because Things Suck Right Now Doesn’t Mean You’re Out of the Game
Poker players have an expression, chip and a chair. As long as you have both, you’re still in the game. Maybe your audience isn’t as big as you want it, but you still have an audience. As stated earlier, maybe your element of luck hasn’t happened yet. Or maybe you haven’t investigated other ways of growing your audience. If some people are listening then there are more people out there that want to. They just have to know you’re there.
Inaction Is Risky Behavior
In poker, you can’t keep folding your hands waiting for the perfect one to come along. Sometimes you need to make your own luck. The same goes for your podcast. How many shows have you approached to be a guest on? How many blogs have you approached to guest post on? How many big names have you approached to be a guest on your show? Really, people are just sitting around waiting for you to ask.
It’s a Matter of Making the Correct Decisions
Just like in poker, if you get knocked down, learn from the experience, get up and try again. No matter how many times you get knocked down, keep making the correct decisions. You can’t help but win if you follow this strategy.
Stick to Your Principles
People think that poker players bluff all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once a player is spotted as a bullshit artist, they’re done. If you have certain principles and standards that you live by, they should be reflected in your show. The moment your audience senses you’re bs-ing them, they’re gone.
Stick to your principles but let your show breathe and grow in the direction it wants to grow. If something is working, build on it. If something isn’t working, evaluate whether it’s worth keeping.
You’ve got to think long-term. It’s the same difference between sprinters and marathoners. There will always be sprinters that show up in a blaze of glory and then burn out quickly. Think like a marathoner. Pace your growth. The players with the best stamina and focus will usually wind up winning.
In poker, if the table is playing tight you should be raising most every pot. If the table is loose and crazy, then pick the hands that you play carefully.
If there are 40 podcasts in your chosen niche, look at what they’re all not talking about. How you can capitalize on that?
Surround Yourself With People More Talented Than You
Want to become a better poker player? Play against better players. Want to be a better podcaster? Listen to the best shows out there. Surround yourself with the best podcasters you can find. If possible, become friends with them. As podcasters we do two things really well: talk and teach. It’s almost like osmosis – the more you surround yourself with people you respect, the more respectable you’ll become.
Love the Game
If you want to become really good in poker or podcasting, you’ve got to love what you’re doing. You’ll need to eat, breathe, sleep and live it. If your spouse or significant other starts telling you to shut up about the new audio processor you’ve got your eye on, you’re probably on the right track.
Share What You’ve Learned With Others
It’s true that the more you give away, the more you get back. It will come back in the form of financial returns, respect and audience growth. But the best part comes from having a solution to another podcaster’s problem and seeing their eyes light up as they finally get it. There’s no better feeling.
Just like in poker, if you show up with the idea that making money is your only objective, you’ve already lost.
If you do something you hate just to make money, then it’s a job.
If you do something you love, regardless of the financial rewards, it’s a lifestyle.