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The Final Poker Lessons

The Final Poker Lessons

As I write this, I’m just coming off of a successful 20-minute webinar highlighting the similarities between professional poker and college admissions.


If you didn’t get a chance to join me live – it’s recorded and available to view whenever you would like.


For those of you who prefer a written review, here’s the high level overview:

  • Slowly, math-minded poker players who could calculate and understand probability, kept beating professional poker players of a generation ago
  • Today, if you want to succeed in professional poker, you have to learn the data behind each play
  • In short, the days of bluffing your way to a successful class/hand are over


So what can admissions leaders learn from poker players?


If there’s one key lesson, it’s this: how you feel about the class does not matter.  What the data says about the class is where the real truth comes in.


Let’s consider the classic example of an admissions director who is behind in deposits.  They may feel like the students are just moving slower this year, and the deposits will come in.


But does the data support that?  Usually not.  Those directors almost invariably end the year with disappointing results.


That hypothetical (but all to real and common) admissions leader is trying to move beyond the limits of simple linear data review.  


Where they err is in leaning on their gut instinct to come to conclusions beyond the simple trendlines.


But as poker professionals have learned: gut instinct can be deceiving.


To extend beyond individual variable trend lines, admissions directors need to become fluent and comfortable with a clear, concise understanding of probabilities.


In the webinar, I shared one of the most glaring examples of American society doing a poor job of grasping probabilistic realities.  In admissions, we are not immune to the same fundamental misunderstanding.


But like poker players, any rising admissions professional needs to not just be “data-minded” … they must also understand probabilities to ensure they can make good use of the data available to them.


When we master probabilities, we’ll be able to accurately understand where the class is going to end up, and take the appropriate actions and interventions to make changes as needed.

Teege Mettille
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