Negotiating Aces

Bobby Baldwin, CEO and Winner!

As a woman who has worked and played in male dominated worlds, I learned early on that there are plenty of good, male role models around--in all parts of my life, but by the looks of the first poker table I visited,  it looked doubtful in this down and dirty poker room.  A few more months was all it took to prove the validity of my  prior experience.

By the time, I took up poker, I had 15 years of business experience under my belt. Generally for the better, occasionally for the worse,  I had  little fear of male competition--anywhere.

At the high stakes poker tables.  I had an early case of astounding  beginner's luck-- but I was not a dummy, I realized I was a minnow swimming with sharks.

In the business world, thus far,  my sharpest weapon had been a nose for identifying good, helpful, successful, men.  So I began to keep my eyes and ears peeled --in search of "a few good men."

One of them--holder of six WSOP bracelets, became a beau. He spent many hours teaching me the finer points of the game and introduced me to an eclectic group of unique achievers, including Bobby Baldwin  a World Series of Poker Champion and  now a senior executive of MGM--the president of the Aria. I don't know him well, but I treasure the lessons he has taught me about negotiating effectively.

At the Grand Prix of Poker, where we were both invited to play in the Charity Invitational, Bobby crippled me --unceremoniously, playing a pair of sevens as if they were Aces--because he knew I would fold to his big raise!

And then he toughened me up by  warning me to hunker down and study how best to play each a hand. Bobby Baldwin's sage words have proven applicable, everywhere!

Baldwin has the world on a string! 

Bobby Baldwin

My hours were numbered at the final table of the Grand Prix. Bobby eventually knocked me out in fifth place, taking advantage of another moment of inexcusable distraction on my part.

I tracked Bobby down to thank him for the thrashing and promised to take his words to heart.  And you better believe, I have done so!

The high profile C-Suite executive of MGM and former winner of the World Series of Poker Championship had already begun his rapid trajectory to the top of the corporate ladder, noting, “The only difference between the poker room and the boardroom is the shape of the table.”

Weeks later, we met up at a formal charity event in Las Vegas. He complimented my gown and then kidded me, good-naturedly, about being distracted at the final table of the Grand Prix, whispering, "It pays to watch hands when you are not in them."

Following Bobby's suggestion, I began to approach card tables and conference tables with more focus, taking pains to avoid a more blunt accusation of the attention span of a gnat!

I  created exercises to develop my power of observation, more acute acute hearing and awareness of people's speech and silence--both at the poker table and in business meetings. As I developed these skills, I made more confident analyses of risk reward ratios,  and I found myself in fewer jams--everywhere.

Master dealmakers are distinguishable from the rest by their people-reading expertise and negotiating savvy.  Bobby's advice resonated  deeply for me. I learned, slowly and methodically how to become a far keener observer and a more informed listener by paying attention when others don't.

Accurate "people reading and negotiating savvy are crucial calling cards in any power poker game. And, women come to the table with the innate advantage of more highly honed natural intuition.

If I had to guess how Bobby Baldwin came to hold the world on a string, I would make a ladylike wager that it is his power of concentration and attention to facts and behavior that others miss regularly.

Many years after the Grand Prix Poker Tournament and the gala charity affair, I was visiting  the late Terri Lanni, Chairman of MGM, when Bobby, who had become MGM president, popped in. I reminded him of his sage advice and its impact. He remembered details of both prior events!


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