What Poker Star Martin Jacobson Can Teach Us About Personal Growth

When it comes to ways to improve yourself, there are almost too many options to know where exactly to start. Self-improvement requires some deep thinking, considering how you are now, and thinking about what your self-improvement would look like tangibly.

Ultimately, any form of self-improvement is about personal growth. If you evolve as a person, you automatically improve. And, often, we can get inspiration for our own personal growth from the most unusual of places. Take poker star Martin Jacobson for example. His life and career is prime example of how we can use taking risks – and break out of our comfort zones – in order to grow as a person and achieve the success we deserve.

Martin Jacobson: Poker Player Extraordinaire

Swedish-born poker player Martin Jacobson rose to fame primarily in 2014 when he won the World Series of Poker Main Event for $10,000,000, which became the fifth-largest single payout in poker tournament history. But he never intended to be such a poker star, having originally trained as a chef. The heat of the kitchen prepared him for the heat of the poker table and he won his first cash sum in 2008 coming in third place at the European Poker Tour event in Hungary. The following year, he was runner-up in Venice’s World Poker Tour event.

Before the huge 2014 win, his largest payout was a mere $807,000. In February 2015, Jacobson was named Player of the Year by his native Swedish poker publication, joining other formidable players such as Viktor Blom, Chris Bjorin, and Robin Ylitalo in the accolade.

Jacobson’s attitude when it comes to playing poker is one of integrity. Part of playing poker is the ability to take risks and to know which ones should be taken and which ones shouldn’t. Through trial and error and expert strategic thinking, Jacobson has achieved this; to grow as a person, anyone else can emulate this. Jacobson has claimed that it benefits his mental wellbeing when playing poker strategically with the ability to think through risky decisions.

But Jacobson Has Faced His Share of Challenges

But, during his Main Event in 2017, Jacobson didn’t fare so well. The lack of the ‘November Nine’ for the tournament saw a shaky tournament for Jacobson, who claims that he was able to regroup after giving away some of his stacks, but was able to return to the competition more confidently. The risks involved in the tournament, despite his prolific standing as a poker player, remain the same, and even though he has achieved the status as an ambassador for 888poker, the pressure of the game can still affect him.

That’s why his poker career can provide insight into living more confidently and taking more risks. Jacobson knew that, during his challenging 2017 WSOP tour, he might lose, but continued regardless with the tenacity to continue the fight. Jacobson advocates for a November Nine in the tournament as the excitement helps to up the stakes and pressure, which provides a fertile ground to play to your risks. But Jacobson also claims that poker is moving towards a more mathematical strategy to figure out optimal moves and laments the instinctive side that poker affords. Indeed, it is this innate instinct and pressure of the moment and of being on a knife-edge between winning big or losing greatly that keeps the poker player’s heart beating.

Taking this stance in life – diving headfirst into potentially difficult situations with potentially great rewards is the key to lucrative personal growth. By taking risks, and moving out of our comfort zones, we are able to grow.

More Than Just a Poker Player

But Jacobson isn’t just a poker player – and the rest of his life shows another way in which we can grow: by helping others. The former chef is linked with charitable organization Raising for Effective Giving, which prompts professional poker players to donate 2% of their gross tournament winnings and 3% of their profit from cash games every quarter, which are then allocated to the organizations which can do the most with the money. The effective altruism belief behind the charity and Jacobson’s philosophy is to spread charity across all causes and benefits.

The strategic mind of the poker player even extends to the charitable work he does, ensuring the angles are covered and he is making the best decision. This is another facet of Jacobson to emulate that will aid in your own personal growth. Furthermore to his charity work, Jacobson acts as an ambassador for the game of poker and shows a clear passion both personally and professionally for the instinctive nature of the game and the therapeutic nature of the high-pressure environment.

While there are a number of celebrities and people in the public eye that can provide a solid foundation to emulate for personal growth, Martin Jacobson is one that uses his skills as a poker player and in his chosen profession as a way in which we can learn by example.

Strategic thinking, confidence in himself, and the ability to take measured risks can aid with just about any task or instance in our own lives. The trick to personal growth is not to take as many risks as possible but to consider each one as though a separate hand in poker, analyzing each instance and the odds against you – and your competitors and their behavior – to decide whether the risk will be worth not just the reward but the potential knockdown should it not pay off. Ultimately, playing poker can teach you the value of taking all kinds of risks in real life – something that Martin Jacobson shows us well.

Dragan Sutevski

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan