The Shark and the Fish

Book review: This might be the year's weirdest management book.


(Photo: Natalie Castellino)

THE SHARK AND THE FISH: Applying Poker Strategies to Business Leadership
Charley Swayne

“It was no coincidence that Gates launched Microsoft, Nixon funded his first campaign and Eisenhower paid for his military uniforms—all from their poker winnings,” writes Charley Swayne in the introduction to what might be this year’s weirdest management book. Swayne, a professional poker instructor who has led university-level courses on game theory, sets out to prove that the only thing separating the boardroom table from a Texas hold ’em table is “a thin layer of felt.” It’s fun to play along: both involve probabilities (pot odds, expected value), resources (chip stacks, working capital), public information (bets, calls, raises) and proprietary information (hole cards). And, of course, both involve luck (the flop). The first sign Swayne might not be offering the most actionable business advice appears when he points out that winning in poker is 70% skill, 30% luck, whereas business, he says, is closer to 50-50. Given that, poker players may find more value in the celebrity CEO wisdom Swayne sprinkles throughout (from Warren Buffett to Zappos’s Tony Hsieh) than managers will glean from Swayne’s densely nerdy charts about preflop odds and betting patterns. Still, it’d be nice to win a few more hands at your Friday-night game.