Updated on 09/18/2011 1:09AM

Where the boardroom and the cardroom intersect


There is a definite link between poker and business. Just ask Greg Dinkin, former poker professional and co-founder of Venture Literary, a bi-coastal literary management and production company. Dinkin went to business school, but he got even better business training sitting across the felt from other players intent on separating him from his money. Dinkin was a prop player (a player paid an hourly wage by the card room to stimulate action but who plays with his own money) at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles in the mid-90's. This was pre-poker boom, when the games were tighter and the competition more stiff than it is in the post-Internet fad/poker-on-ESPN-all-the-time world we now live in.

"I can't really emphasize one thing I learned in poker that's helped me in business, because it's everything: decision making, patience, not being emotional," Dinkin said. "I learned all those things. There's a real similarity between reading body language in a meeting and looking for tells at the poker table."

Where many agents are famous for their "get as much money as possible" approach, Dinkin looks at negotiations differently.

"I remember sitting with Phil Gordon and talking about the negotiation for his upcoming book," Dinkin said. "He's a guy who was very successful in business before he became a poker pro. And with our experience in the poker world, we're both used to trying to walk in somebody else's shoes - to see a situation the way that they do. And our approach, instead of 'gimme, gimme, gimme,' was to try and really look at the numbers and come up with a deal where we'd get what we needed but where the publisher would also win and make money in the end. Unlike poker, business is not a zero-sum game."

Dinkin has compiled these lessons in a book called "The Poker MBA," and in addition to his literary agency, he also gives motivational speeches on the topic (see for details). In his business career, Dinkin has used his connections in the poker world to get book deals for the likes of Phil Gordon, Matt Matros, Scott Fischman, and Amarillo Slim. He was even the co-writer for the latter.

As his business career took off, Dinkin has had less and less time for poker, though he does attend the World Series of Poker every year. He won the 2003 media-celebrity tournament, but he hadn't played seriously in more than 10 years before he decided to enter this year's seven stud hi-lo World Series of Poker event.

What made him want to enter? "I went out there to network and meet with clients," he said. "The media tourney was on Thursday and I looked at the schedule and saw that the tournament on Monday was seven-stud hi-lo. In a game like no limit hold'em, if the best player in the world is a 100, I'm maybe a 60. But seven-stud hi lo isn't as complicated of a game, and I played it a lot as a prop. I'm probably a 92 out of 100 in that game. So I entered, but I didn't have great expectations."

Just as his poker skills had once helped him get off to a good start in the world of business, now his business skills helped him to his biggest poker success.

"In the time leading up to the tournament, I'd spent a lot of time editing Phil Gordon's 'Little Blue Book,' so I had Phil's dialogue running in my head the whole time," he said. "One of the key lessons in that book is, 'the money is at the top,' and I kept repeating that to myself, almost like a mantra. Many people are so concerned with just cashing or moving up a few spots, that later in the tournament they're too conservative and that's when good players play more aggressively. It's not a decision borne of greed or ego, it's simple risk-return analysis. I'd rather have a 20 percent chance of winning $100,000 than a 50-percent chance of $20,000. So I never looked at the potential payout of spot 78 to spot 2."

At one point, Dinkin was the chip leader at the final table. and in the end, he finished second, netting $102,542.

"At first I was so disappointed. It was tough to be so close to the bracelet and not get it," Dinkin said. "Looking back, that seems kind of insane. In about a day, I was elated."

So when it comes time to think about sending your kid to business school, don't just think about Harvard and Wharton. There are a few good places down the road in Atlantic City.

Peter Thomas Fornatale is co-author of "Six Secrets of Successful Bettors" (DRF Press).