EQ: The Secret of the Professional Poker Player

Last Updated May 1, 2009 3:47 AM EDT

I recently read a terrific article about professional poker players in The New Yorker called What would Jesus bet? The article features Chris Ferguson, widely regarded by his peers as the best professional poker play in the world and who is nicknamed "Jesus" because of his physical appearance. The reporter believes that Ferguson was successful because of his fluency in mathematics but is corrected by Julio Rodrigues who writes for cardplayer.com.

"A lot of players know the math -- but the majority of them go on instinct, or feel, or a read on a player. It seems a lot of them are just born with a sense of games. If you talk to a lot of these guys outside, they're never not playing a game. They're reading you. That's why they're so engaging. They know what people want; it's very easy for them to please you. They also know how to deceive.... In addition Ferguson is like a robot, you get nothing from watching him."
In other words the most successful poker player in the world has absolute control of emotions, spends his time trying to work out what are the emotional drives of his fellow players and builds relationships with them by knowing how both to please and deceive.

Is this not steps 2, 3 &4 of Goldman's model of Emotional Intelligence? The person with high EQ is someone who has good self-control of his emotions, high empathy, and able to build successful relationships.

Of course the quoted passage also applies to one of my favourite characters in business, corporate psychopaths or snakes-in-suits. In my next blogs I will describe how to recognise and manage them.