What Poker Can Teach Us



Some people will argue the game poker is nothing more than gambling, while others say it is a game of skill.  I believe poker is, in fact, both and because of that it holds some important lessons for the singer.

Much like life, poker is a game of incomplete information.  You do not get to see your opponent’s cards and you do not know what cards are to come as the hand progresses.

This means there is a range of what the right decision might be and also a rather large luck factor as additional cards come into play.

In poker you can make the “right” decision and still ultimately lose the hand.  Every poker player has plenty of “bad beat” stories where they had the strongest hand right up until the last card, where a 1% chance beat them.  The luck factor was not kind.

I find this to be very analogous to launching a career in singing.  There are a number of variables that will determine your success and, for better or worse, luck is one of them.

As someone looking to be a professional singer, you too will have “bad beats,” or swings in luck.

The world of music is at many times unfair.  Singers with questionable talent will have huge hits while far more gifted singers struggle to pay their bills.

On any given night a complete amateur can beat the world’s best poker players – through sheer luck.

Why then would anyone try and make a living at this game – or in music?


The Long Run

Because over time luck begins to even out.  If you flip a coin 5 times you could easily get heads five times in a row.  But if you flip it 10,000 times you will likely get much closer to 50-50.

In poker, as the luck evens out over the long run, skill becomes the more overriding factor.  Professional gamblers call it “having an edge.”

Watching other players betting patterns, observing their behavior for “tells,” learning what hands a player is likely to play in a particular situation.  All of these skills add up to profit for the poker player.

The more of an edge a player can build, the more they can beat back the luck factor.

As a singer you need to find as many edges as possible.


Finding Your Edges

As a performing artist you need a large number of skill sets.  The better you get in each area, the more you have an edge.

These key areas include:

Vocal technique

Vocal style



Live performance

Recording and production


Artistic vision

Team building


Business expertise


Great superstars have abilities in all of these categories, some stronger than others.  Each one of these can give you an edge over your competition and help your career to last.

No matter how good you are, if you can’t build a team and sell your vision and music, you are not going very far.

If you build all the elements but your vocal technique fails you – you aren’t going to last long.

You need to have the best technique possible, with a dynamic live performance and songs better than anything on the radio.  If so, you have diminished the luck factor – you have an edge.

The music industry constantly needs new blood – but there are millions chasing this dream.  What are you willing to do to have an edge over them?

When watching Adam Lambert on American Idol was there any doubt they had found a star?  He had an edge over all the other hundreds of thousands who auditioned.

Lambert had an amazing voice, charisma and a strong sense of who he was as an artist. His edge was tangible and undeniable.

You need to develop edges if you are to have any hope of a career.  Be the best you can be and push random luck as far away as you can.