How Recruiting is like Texas Hold’Em

That’s right. I’m caught up in the latest craze, Texas Hold’Em. I’ve been playing and studying the game for a couple years now. The more I play and learn, the more parallels I find between being a successful recruiter and being successful at Hold’Em.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Hold’Em, here is a quick overview (skip this if you know how to play):

– In a casino or card room there are usually about 9-10 players per table.
– There is a dealer that deals the cards, and a dealer chip that rotates around the table to show where the dealing and betting begins for each hand.
– The 2 players in front (clockwise, looking down) of the dealer chip, are forced to bet each hand, one a small bet, the other a larger bet. These bets are called “Blind Bets.”
– Play begins when the dealer deals 2 cards to each player.
– Each player can decide whether to play a hand or fold, after looking at their first 2 cards. Other than the 2 players mentioned above (the players in the blinds), all the other players can opt out of the hand without paying anything.
– Anyone opting to play will have to at least match the big blind to see the community cards. Players will call, raise or fold during this first round of betting (this is referred to as pre-flop betting).
– After the pre-flop betting, the dealer deals the first 3 community cards (the flop) in the middle of the table. This is followed by another round of betting, then a 4th community card, followed by a 5th, with a round of betting occurring after each card.
– After the betting is over, each player left in the game makes the best poker hand out of any combination of their 2 cards and the 5 community cards.

That’s basically how the game is played. Here are a few of the things that I’ve learned playing the game that I think we can all relate to our profession.

Why do bad players consistently lose money in Hold ‘Em? Bad players lose money consistently because they play too many hands, and play those hands too long instead of playing the odds. It’s that simple.

Playing too many hands.

There are good starting hands, and bad starting hands. The good starting hands don’t come along very often, so someone who plays to see nearly every flop is obviously playing marginal or bad starting hands. Sometimes they catch enough of the flop that they feel there’s a possibility that they will win the hand, only to find out after investing lots of money into the pot that their hand was nowhere near the best hand.

It’s pretty obvious how this relates to recruiting. It seems that every one of the “Big-Biller” speaker presentations that I’ve listened to or read in the past few years have made this point: Work on job orders in which you have the highest possibility for success. How much money could you have made last year if you had NOT worked on just 10 search assignments that you failed to fill, and spent that time on 10 successful assignments? $150K-$200K? Or more?

Some people will say, “I remember a search assignment that didn’t meet any of the requirements of an “A-Level” search, yet I filled it and made a great fee.” The bad poker player will also see the two cards he holds and remember the time when he flopped a monster hand with 6-9 off-suit. This is true, it happens. But it occurs such a small percentage of the time, that in the one hand you win, you will never replace the money you lost in the 10 previous hands you played those cards. You will not make enough money in that one bad search assignment that you fill to pay for your time wasted on the 10-12 you didn’t fill.

Playing a hand too long.

In regards to playing a hand too long, the same applies to recruiting. A good starting hand is only that, a good start. After the flop, what was once a good hand can become a horrible one. Be prepared to fold your cards if your hand doesn’t improve and it’s obvious that other player’s hands have. The worst players I have ever watched will stay in every hand to see the last card and have nothing to win with in the end. They will often shake their head in disbelief that their Ace-King didn’t win, even though the 5 community cards produced nothing to improve that hand.

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In recruiting, be prepared to dump a search that you initially deemed to be an “A-Level” search if things change and you suddenly start seeing the wrong signals. We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s our main contact leaving, or for some mysterious reason we stop getting feedback. Don’t be like the “fish” at the poker table and stick with it, working it every day. Muck that search and get a new A-Level search to work.

Playing the odds.

Another point that can be related to both Hold’Em and recruiting is that the odds of your success of any search decreases with the number of recruiters also working it. The best starting hand in Hold’Em is Ace-Ace (known as “Pocket Rockets,” or “American Airlines”). This starting hand will dominate any other player in a heads-up (one-on-one) play. You should always raise and re-raise in the pre-flop betting with this hand to limit your competition. With each additional player that sees the flop with you, your odds of winning are decreased. In a heads-up situation, yours odds of winning with A-A could be as high as 80%, whereas if every player stayed to see the flop, you are probably only going to win about 12-15% of the time.

When you are ranking your search assignments, don’t undervalue the exclusivity of the assignment. With every additional recruiter that is working a search, your odds of success decreases. A search assignment that you see posted on the web by multiple recruiters should be folded. Just as you should raise and re-raise your “Pocket Rockets” to minimize the field, ASK for exclusivity on every search. By asking for an engagement fee, or simply asking for a 2-week head start, you might put the odds highly in your favor.

Recruiting, like Hold’Em, is a business of odds. If you spend your time doing the activities that have the highest odds of success, you will be successful at recruiting. In Hold’Em if you play and stay with hands that offer the highest odds of success you will win more often. A quick disclaimer: There’s much more to the game of Hold’Em than what I’ve mentioned here, so please don’t stop reading and head to the casino. But if you do, look for me, I always welcome beginners at my table.

© 2006 Alan Carty and


1 Comment on “How Recruiting is like Texas Hold’Em

  1. ALan,

    I think that you should spend more time focusing on your family and what makes that work than materialistic things that will perish away one day Remember GOD will judge one day……

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