Get Started With Our Free Course: Essential Financial Modelling

Life is Poker, not Chess

I recently read ‘thinking in bets’ by Annie Duke. If you haven’t read it, you should, it is great.

The book deals with decision making when you don’t have all the facts. As a financial modeller, it’s a subject close to my heart.

In poker, you can be the world’s greatest player, make all the right decisions, but still get beat by a novice that gets lucky. Luck plays a large part in the outcome of any hand of poker.

In chess, a novice would have no chance against Gary Kasparov. If you learn the moves and strategies, make the right moves and don’t make mistakes, chances are, you will win.

Annie argues that life, (and business) are like poker and not chess. In an uncertain world, you can make all the right decisions for all the right reasons and still end up losing out.

Equally, you can make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons and still come out on top.

Successful people love to think that life is like chess, that they got to where they are by the sum of all of their great decisions. To think that luck may have played a significant role makes them uncomfortable.

As financial modellers, in the business of supporting decision making by ‘predicting the future’ where does this leave us? If life is half chance, what is the point of trying to forecast the future? What is the point of creating a forecasting model at all? I hear this a lot.

My argument is this. We may not be able to control the outcome of our decisions and account for luck, but we can control the decision making process. We can make sure we give ourselves and our businesses the best chance of success through robust and rigorous analysis. A great financial model allows us to be like the great poker players and only place our bet once we have a clear understanding of the odds.

Sometimes we will win, sometimes we won’t but we can keep learning, improving and refining our decision making to give it our best shot.

Be lucky!




View Profile

Related Articles


Building a robust and flexible financial model

Building a robust and flexible financial model is a critical task for businesses. Whether you’re trying to secure funding for your startup, track your company finances, or plan for your company’s future, having a solid model is essential.


What Does the UK Spring Budget Mean for Tax?

The UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivered his Spring Statement today (23 March 2022). In terms of measures relating to companies involved in the project finance arena, one of the main items of note was the announcement of the government’s Tax Plan for the remainder of this

Our Work

We have the privilege of serving clients who are doing big, innovative things and who push us to do our best work. We like that. We support them with financial modelling, valuations and due diligence.

Find out more about what we do.