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What Poker Teaches Us About Crisis

I recently saw the movie, Molly’s Game. It’s the true account of Molly Bloom, a woman who ran the world’s largest exclusive high-stakes poker game -- before the Feds shut her down.

Naturally, the movie reminded me of handling a crisis. Not so much about the way she handled her personal crisis, but crisis in general.

Poker can teach us a lot about crisis communications.

Yielding to the cliché, I left the theater singing Kenny Rogers’ song, The Gambler. When the guitar strumming dissipated from my head, I started to see the crisis connections.

Its true that when crisis strikes your business, you “gotta know when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, and when to walk away.”

Hold ‘em.

Molly was the bank for her game. The gamblers submitted upwards of $250,000 for the opportunity to play at her table. She supplied the money, vetted the players, and extended credit at her discretion. She held all the cards, so to speak.

As a business owner, the only way for you to hold all the cards is to prepare. Whereas the poker players’ buy-in was cash, yours is your upfront commitment to training. You hold all the cards for your organization’s success. You supply the planning, you vet your leadership team, and you reap the benefits of good standing.

Fold ‘em

In poker, to fold is to end your participation in the game. No more bets for you. You put your cards, face down on the table, and the dealer slides them into the muck.

In business, you don’t have to luxury to fold during any of the rounds. When you or one of your employees does something egregious, in most cases, you should respond to the public and media, make restitution with your victims, and put things in action so the same thing doesn’t happen to your brand again.

Walk away

Molly Bloom didn’t walk away from the poker game in time. The FBI raided her home in the middle of the night and hauled her to jail. She admitted in a People magazine interview that ambition, greed, or naiveté eventually brought her down. “I think it was all those things,” Bloom said. “I was in way too deep…trying to hang onto this thing that had established and legitimized me.”

Unless you are ready to close or sell your business, you have to play your hand and stay in the game. With all the available training, there’s no excuse for not knowing. If you care about your organization and it’s people, you must cut out time to plan and train your teams to handle crisis.

Have you ever had to fold or walk away?