Howard Lederer on Business Ethics

Lederer: One thing that we’re all acutely aware of in the poker world is that we only have our good name, and, you know, you can’t borrow a bunch of money and then say, “Sorry, I don’t have any money.  I’m going to declare bankruptcy,” and then, like, a month later you come back into the poker world under a different name, right?  You can do that in business.  So…  But you can’t do that in the poker world, so people always remember that you’re that guy that stiffed everybody and didn’t pay back, and that hurts you, not just the fact that you have to deal with these people that are constantly hounding you for money and you’re being dishonorable and not paying them back, but also people won’t trust you, so then you have to be extremely risk averse your whole career because if you ever lose your bankroll, you’re out.  No one’s going to help you get back in action.  One of the best piece of advice or maybe, you know, one of the best observations, particularly in the poker world, that I got was from a player who once told me that, “Honesty is the best hustle,” and what he meant by that was that if you are truly honest and the poker world perceives you correctly that you’re honest and that you’re a trustworthy person, then you have, you create a group of friends that all are willing to help each other.  You find you gravitate toward other honest people and that allows you to actually play bigger, maybe beyond your bankroll, be a little less risk averse with your bankroll because you know that you’ll have people that will pick you up when you need some picking up, and, likewise, you’ll pick them up and kind of if you think about this group of, let’s say, 10 people that all really trust each other, they can all play maybe a little bit beyond their bankroll, but they’re not really playing beyond the bankroll of the group.  Some of them will be up, some of them will be down, and if everyone’s willing to pick each other up and they’re honorable with each other, then I think in the long run the group does better that way.  But that can only happen from this sort of position of trust.  In terms of, you know, not being trustworthy or being tricky in the business world, you see, again, we come from a poker world where deceitfulness, that’s part of the game.  That’s part of the rules.  The person you’re playing against is also going to be deceitful.  You know that ahead of time.  They’re expecting it from you, and therefore it’s a completely honorable game.  The deceit is part of the rules of the game, right?  But if I sit down and kind of because you’re developing, you know, this very strong sense of what it means to be honorable and what it means to be trusted in the poker world, even within this game where deceit is part of the game, I do think that, as a poker player, when I’m at the negotiating table, I’m acutely aware of the ground rules of that situation, and if deceitfulness isn’t part of that game, you know, true deceit or lying about your capabilities or lying about your ability to pay for a certain product or service, if that’s not part of the game, then it really never is at the negotiating table, then you don’t bring that to the table.  You know, again, that would be dishonorable.  I think it gets instilled in the poker player maybe more than the businessman. 

Poker teaches you that all you have is your reputation, says the Poker Professor.