The lockdown will cause the worst depression in history, and it will be deadlier than COVID. Governor Sisolak and countless other people don’t understand or accept this reality.


 Catastrophes such a wars, tornados, and pandemics force authorities to confront an extremely painful reality: It’s absolutely impossible to save everyone.

That reality forces them to make a terrible decision: Who will live or die?

Strong leaders don’t duck that responsibility. They apply the triage principle by dividing victims into three categories:

  1. Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive. They ignore them.
  2. Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive. They give them painkillers, but don’t invest much time or resources treating them.
  3. Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome. They concentrate on saving these people.

COVID kills mostly people in category #2. They are old and have serious illnesses. Even without COVID, they would soon die no matter what care they receive. We’ve all read about the numerous deaths in nursing homes. Most of them wouldn’t have lived much longer. In addition, the numbers are inflated: COVID did not cause many of these deaths.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s Corona Response Coordinator Virus, said: ”In the U.S. you are counted as a victim of the pandemic if you die while testing positive for the virus, even if something else causes your death.”

The lockdown ignores reality and the logic of triage. As the Wikipedia article put it. “It becomes the task of the disaster medical authorities to set aside some victims as hopeless, to avoid trying to save one life at the expense of several others.”

The lockdown and depression will kill mostly people in category #3. First, that group is much larger than the other two groups combined. Second, they either won’t get the care needed to save their lives, or they will take actions which kill themselves or others. For example, they won’t get treatments for cancer and other serious diseases, or they will abuse alcohol or drugs, or they will kill other people or themselves.

The lockdown and depression will even kill or shorten the lives of unborn babies. Their mothers won’t get the treatments and advice needed to have healthy children.

In other words, the lockdown and depression will not just kill more people. The lost lives will be much more valuable. Sacrificing many babies, children, and productive adults to protect a fairly small number of extremely sick people in hospitals and nursing homes is particularly foolish. They have terrible lives, and some are so sick that they want to die.

Those words will enrage some people. They will insist, “All lives are equal, and all must be saved.”


If we could save everyone, of course, we should do it. But we can’t save everyone. All good decisions are based on a realistic cost-benefit analysis: What do we lose versus what do we gain? In this case we must make a painful trade-off: Is it better to save babies, children, and productive adults or old, sick people?

The answer is obvious. If we trade the life of one baby for the life of one sick old person, we gain seventy-five years of life and sacrifice one or two. In addition, the years we gain will be much happier and more productive than the ones we sacrifice.

Some readers have said, “I don’t feel right trading lives.” But we can’t avoid trading them. The only question is: Do the trades make sense?

The lockdown is already killing people, and the depression will kill young, productive people to save sick, old ones. Governor Sisolak, many other politicians, and the media just deny that reality because it would force them to make painful decisions.


It’s easy to deny reality because the words “lockdown,” “depression,” “unemployment,” etc. won’t appear on death certificates, and many deaths will happen years later, but the lockdown will be the ultimate cause.

Because the deaths will be invisible, Governor Sisolak and the other politicians, journalists, and bureaucrats who created and are prolonging the lockdown won’t be held accountable. The longer the lockdown lasts, the worse the depression will become, and the more people will die. Let’s discuss five ways that the lockdown and depression will kill people.

  1. Locked down and unemployed, uninsured people don’t see doctors.
  2. Locked down and unemployed, unhappy people eat unhealthy foods.
  3. Locked down and unemployed, unhappy people abuse drugs and alcohol.
  4. Locked down and unemployed, unhappy people kill each other.
  5. Locked down and unemployed, unhappy people commit suicide.


They can’t afford it. Unless they are painfully sick, they just skip visits they would make if they had jobs and insurance. Every doctor knows that delays kill people. If you treat many illnesses quickly, patients soon get well. If you wait too long, they’re dead.

Unemployed, uninsured people are especially likely to skip expensive preventive examinations such as lab tests, MRI, and X-Rays:

  • Many women won’t get mammograms, and some of them won’t know they have breast cancer until it’s too late to save their lives.
  • The same thing will happen to countless men with prostate cancer screenings.
  • Most people will ignore small skin growths. Since the growths don’t hurt, they won’t pay for doctors and tests. Some growths will become cancers that spread and kill them.
  • Here’s a headline: “UK: 18,000 EXTRA CANCER DEATHS COULD HAPPEN WITHIN A YEAR BECAUSE OF FOCUS ON COVID-19. Cancer victims not able to get early screenings and treatment.”That headline was about the United Kingdom which has far fewer people than the U.S. It was for only one year, and most cancers don’t kill that quickly. Long after COVID is a distant memory, delayed treatment will be killing cancer victims.

Cancers aren’t the only killer diseases that can be prevented by prompt treatment, but they are the most frightening ones. The same principle applies to heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and many other diseases. Omitting or delaying treatment now will kill people later.

Not seeing doctors is especially dangerous for pregnant women. If an unemployed, uninsured and pregnant woman has to choose between putting food on the table and seeing a doctor, she will often choose food. When the baby dies or has severe problems, hardly anyone will blame the lockdown.

The lockdown is also killing employed and insured people. They want to see doctors, but the doctors won’t see them. Either they have closed their offices or are seeing only certain patients. Doctors are especially unwilling to accept new patients, including pregnant women.

It doesn’t matter why people don’t get prompt treatment. Missing or even delaying treatments will unquestionably kill some of them.


Many experts regard our unhealthy diets as a major cause of premature deaths. They’ve told us again and again to avoid foods that cause heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. Poor people have shorter lives partly because they eat worse food than more prosperous ones.

Since the depression will impoverish millions of people, they will eat more unhealthy foods. First, they’re cheaper, and unemployed people have to cut expenses.

Second, they will eat them to relieve their misery. Even if they know the dangers of “comfort foods,” they may eat them just to feel better. The relief is very brief, and one long-term consequence is premature death.


Abuse of alcohol, street drugs, and prescription drugs has always killed many Americans, and misery increases abuse. Abuse has increased during the lockdown, and it will get worse during the depression. The worse people feel, and the longer they feel miserable, the more they will need relief.

Alcohol and drug abuse will kill some pregnant abusers’ children. Every obstetrician tells pregnant women, “Don’t drink or use drugs.” Some women will be so miserable they will ignore that advice. The ones who don’t consult doctors, may not even know that they should completely avoid most drugs and all alcohol. Even moderate use of them can severely harm babies.

Sometimes they will miscarry. Some children will be born with serious diseases and birth defects. They may die quickly or just live shorter than average lives.


Forcing frightened, angry people to spend long hours locked up with each other has increased domestic violence.

“The United Nations called … for urgent action to combat the worldwide surge in domestic violence. ‘I urge all governments to put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic,’ Secretary General António Guterres wrote on Twitter.”

The longer the lockdown lasts, the more people will kill their families and others near them.

After the lockdown is over, the depression will create other types of anger and violence. The longer people are unemployed, the angrier and more violent they will become. Angry people start fights, and the angrier they are, the more often those fights will cause homicides.


The more miserable people become, and the longer the misery lasts, the more likely they are to kill themselves.

“In Tennessee, the crisis is taking its toll on those who were not physically sick, but who appear to have fallen victim to the virus anyway… more people have died from suicide in Knox County than people have from the virus in the entire state…  Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Glenn Jacobs [said]. ‘We have to determine how we can respond to COVID-19 in a way that keeps our economy intact, keeps people employed and empowers them with a feeling of hope and optimism – not desperation and despair.’”

“Suicide rates increase in times of economic strife and uncertainty. Previous research estimates that the 2007 economic crisis in Europe and North America led to more than 10,000 extra suicides.”

Some experts will insist that it’s too simplistic to blame the depression because most suicides have multiple causes. They’re right about multiple causes, but the inescapable fact is that suicides become more common during depressions. If thousands of additional suicides occurred during the 2007 economic crisis, how many will happen during the worst depression in history?

The depression will cause other types of deaths, but there’s no need to discuss them. The central facts are:

  1. The lockdown has already caused some deaths.
  2. The depression will kill many more people.
  3. The longer the lockdown lasts, the worse the depression will become, and the more people it will kill.
  4. Hardly anyone understands or accepts points 1-3.

Why don’t most people understand or accept those points?


Thousands of studies prove that immediate, small rewards and punishments (R&P) have much greater effects on us than much larger, but delayed, R&P. The more visible the short-term R&P are, and the less visible the longer-terms ones are, the more we focus on the short-term. It’s built into our DNA.

The COVID death statistics are extremely visible. We see and hear them constantly. The lockdown’s deaths are mostly invisible, and the ones from the depression won’t occur until the future, sometimes not for years or decades. By then the causal relationship will be completely hidden. When someone dies prematurely from cancer, a heart attack, drug or alcohol abuse, birth defects, etc., nobody will think, “The lockdown killed him.”


A friend told me, “Don’t make predictions you can’t prove,” but it’s impossible to prove a prediction. By definition, a prediction is a statement of what’s expected to occur in the future. Since the future hasn’t happened, nothing can be proved. The correct question is: Does the evidence justify the prediction?

No reasonable person could challenge the point that some people will die because they don’t see doctors, but we can’t say how many. The same point could be made for each of the other causes. How many deaths will the combination of all these factors cause?

Nobody knows, but there is a plausible case that all those factors combined will kill more people than COVID. You’ve probably read extremely different predictions of how many deaths COVID will cause. Those predictions are based on very questionable models and statistics. All models have flaws, and Dr. Birx has admitted that some deaths are falsely blamed on COVID. Since we can’t trust the statistics, predictions based on them are little more than guesses.

In addition, we’ve had several depressions and recessions, and we know some of their effects. COVID is brand new, and we don’t understand it. That’s one reason that the total predicted COVID deaths vary so widely.

The bottom line is that predictions of deaths from the lockdown and depression are more plausible than the predictions you have repeatedly read about COVID deaths.

If COVID mimics the flu, it will soon be gone, but the lockdown and depression will cause invisible deaths year after year, decade after decade.

No sane person could claim that the factors listed earlier won’t cause some deaths.

How many deaths?

Because most deaths will be invisible and won’t occur for years, nobody will ever know the total, but there is a very high probability that it will be more than COVID. The most publicized projections are that COVID will kill between 60,000 and 240,000 Americans.

Before COVID about 8,000 Americans were dying every day. Therefore, the total of predicted COVID deaths is about the number who would die every week for the lower prediction (60,000) or every month for the higher one (240,000).

Let’s compare those numbers to the mostly invisible deaths from the lockdown and depression.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office predicted:

  • The U.S. unemployment rate will surge to 16%.
  • The “deep recession”will last at least two years.

About 155 million Americans were employed on January 1, 2020, and the unemployment rate was 3.6%. Here’s some very simple math:

  • 16 – 3.6 = 12.4% additional
  • 4% of 155 million is 19.2 million additionalunemployed.

That is, the killers discussed earlier will affect 19.2 million newly unemployed people, many of them won’t have health insurance, and the damage to their health can last for decades.

We will never know how many of these people will have shorter lives because of the depression. But let’s make some estimates. If the combination of all of the factors earlier shortens the lives of just 3% of the additionally unemployed, the total premature deaths would be 576,000. If the lives of 5% are shortened, it’s 960,000 deaths.

Those numbers are for the future depression. We must add the deaths from the lockdown. Since these deaths are invisible, we can’t even estimate them accurately, but a few have been reported. For example, Tennessee was opened because there had been so many suicides. Some people have certainly died or will die from untreated illnesses because they don’t see doctors.

Nobody can accurately estimate the effects of all these killers over a multi-year period. And a death twenty years from now is much better than a death today. But any open-minded person who seriously considers all the evidence should conclude that: Prolonging the lockdown will kill more people than it saves.


Nobody knows.

That’s why the arguments are so bitter. If there was a clear case that we should completely open next Tuesday or wait until next January, the experts and politicians wouldn’t argue so vehemently.

Some data suggest that the lockdown was a stupid, tragic mistake. For example, Sweden never locked down, and its death rate is lower than the European average, but higher than ours.

The experts are arguing about whether Sweden made the right decision, and both sides can make a good case about the medical consequences. But there is no argument that Sweden’s economy will be less damaged than ours. Sweden expects a recession, while we’re heading for the worst depression in our history.

If we add the deaths from all causes during the lockdown and depression to the ones caused by COVID, Sweden’s total death rate will be much lower than ours.

Regardless of whether you think the lockdown was a good decision, the inescapable fact is that the longer the lockdown continues, the worse the depression will become, and the more people will die from the lockdown and the depression.

Because I believe that the lockdown and depression will kill so many people, I think the lockdown should end soon. I’m also convinced that the lockdown – or parts of it – will last too long.


Governor Sisolak, many other politicians, and countless journalists don’t even try to objectively analyze the evidence about all the consequences. They just select whatever supports their personal, political, or economic agenda. They also play the “blame game,” acting like small children, pointing fingers at each other, screaming, “It’s your fault!”

Why do they act so destructively?

Because their decisions are based, not on the long-term consequences for our country, state, and citizens, but on their own agendas. The four groups that have pushed hardest for increasing the length and tightness of the lockdown are the media (especially the liberals), the government bureaucrats, the hard leftists, and the selfish politicians, including Governor Sisolak.

The Media (Especially The Liberals) Love The Lockdown.

CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other organizations love anything that gives them an excuse to attack President Trump. They have blamed him for almost everything except deliberately causing the pandemic.

In addition to their election agenda, they have applied one of their oldest and most important rules: If it bleeds, it leads.

Bleeding and death are dramatic. TV networks and newspapers emphasize them to increase their audiences and advertising revenue. They emphasize stories about COVID deaths, and ignore the invisible deaths caused by the lockdown and future depression. They also ignore or minimize the reports that the COVID death statistics have been inflated.

Even conservative media organizations have applied the rule, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Fox News, The New York Post and similar organizations emphasize the visible deaths and pay little attention to the invisible ones.

Regardless of when the lockdowns end, some death statistics will get worse, and those statistics will be extremely visible. The liberals will blame the conservatives and vice versa. Everyone will publicize the statistics that support their bias, ignore the contrary data, and blame their enemies for everything that goes wrong.

  • They shouldn’t have done it so quickly.
  • They should have planned better.
  • They should have made sure there were enough masks or test kits or ventilators.
  • They are “stupid,” “selfish,” “calloused,” “uncaring about human lives,” “irresponsible,” even “murderers.”

The Government Bureaucrats Love The Lockdown.

Regardless of their political bias, bureaucrats want to increase their own power. COVID has caused an unprecedented expansion of government power. The politicians make policies, but the bureaucrats make and enforce the detailed rules. They just love telling us what we can and can’t do, and the more tightly they control us, the bigger their empires and budgets become.

The Hard Leftists Love The Lockdown.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she was glad the oil industry was being destroyed. She didn’t care about the families of the hundreds of thousands of people who would lose their jobs and health insurance. Destroying their lives was a small price to pay to move us toward socialism.

When she realized that she had been too open, she quickly deleted that tweet. Even though many people already knew that she wants to destroy our economy, she didn’t want to be too obvious.

Many leftist politicians, journalists, and professors have the same goal, but they are smarter, more subtle, and more dangerous. They know that most Americans want to preserve capitalism. If their goal is too obvious, there will be a backlash.

They aren’t revolutionaries. They’re not ready to kill people directly, and they don’t want blood on their hands. But they welcome the depression, They hope it will convince people that capitalism is as evil as they have always claimed. Since the depression will cause invisible deaths, they won’t feel guilty. They’re hoping and working for an indirect and slow “bloodless coup.”

Most Politicians, Including Governor Sisolak, Are Selfish.

Most of the depression-caused deaths won’t occur for years, and they will be invisible. Since opening the economy will cause visible deaths, the governor and most other politicians lack the courage to act decisively and risk being blamed for results.

Governor Sisolak has even joined with California and other states to avoid the responsibility to make any decision. He knows that California, Oregon, et al have extremely different economies, but joining that group lets him hide.

Strong leaders accept their responsibility to make tough decisions. Weak ones avoid responsibility to protect themselves. Harry Truman was a strong leader. He was so annoyed by officials who wouldn’t accept responsibility that he put a sign on his desk, “The buck stops here.”

When anyone complained about being criticized, he said, ”If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” I wish our governor and many other politicians had the courage to accept responsibility.






6 Emphasis added.

7Some experts claim that there will be a second wave. At the moment there is no way to know whether it will occur.

8Of course, Bernie Sanders and his supporters regard the loss of insurance as proof that we need socialized medicine. Perhaps we do, but people’s lives depend upon the system we have now.


By Alan Schoonmaker, Ph.D.¹

That term appears frequently in the psychological and popular literature, and it has even been a movie title. Many people use books, articles, training courses, and professional counselors to help them manage their anger. Anger is obviously a common problem, especially at poker tables.

We see angry players all the time. They throw cards, shout at people, and complain bitterly about everything. Their anger creates a vicious cycle: It harms their play and increases their losses, making them even angrier. Despite its importance, the term, “anger management,” hardly ever appears in poker conversations, books, or articles. Why is such a huge problem discussed so rarely?


We poker players like to see ourselves as analytic, realistic thinkers, but denial is everywhere, especially about emotions. Most people, including you and me, are not honest about our feelings. For example, I quietly told a bitterly complaining friend, “Don’t get mad at me. I didn’t do it.” She shouted angrily, “I’M NOT MAD!!”

Many angry people also deny anger’s effects. They may say, “I’m very angry, but it hasn’t changed my play.”

Nonsense! We aren’t machines. Anger negatively affects almost everything we think and do. Pretending that it doesn’t is just another form of denial.


Going on tilt is the most visible and serious effect. When someone is acting crazily, almost everyone can see it, except, perhaps, the one on tilt. It is important, but for every individual who acts recklessly, several people quietly seethe, letting anger sabotage their game. “Tilt” is often defined as allowing emotions to affect our play, and I suspect that far more money is lost from quiet anger than from obvious craziness.

The line between winning and losing is very thin. The “standard” one big bet per hour is less than 10% of the total money wagered, and very few players win that much. If anger harms our game slightly, we can easily shift from winning to losing. Anger costs us money in several ways.

We acquire much less information. We may be so distracted that we miss signals, including quite obvious ones.

We misinterpret the information we do acquire. We may see what we hope or fear, not what is really there.

We give away too much information. Our need to express our feelings may make us say and do things that tell others how to beat us. For example, we may stare disgustedly at a missed draw, inviting a bluff. Or we may show our cards, hoping for sympathy, but telling others how we play.

We become impatient. We all know that patience is essential, but angry people don’t want to wait for good cards and positions. They need to ease that tension now.

We show our vulnerability, and the other players will exploit it. Poker is a predatory game; the strong eat the weak. When opponents sense vulnerability, they will take advantage of it. For example, they may goad us to make us even angrier and less effective, or they may raise to isolate us, knowing they can read us easily.

We may seek revenge. Revenge-seeking can make us give their chips to our “enemy” and other players. A Chinese proverb is very relevant: “When you set out for revenge, dig two graves, one for your enemy and one for yourself.”


Many people deny the causes for their anger. They blame bad beats, bad luck, stupid players, incompetent dealers, smoke, noise, or almost anything except themselves. Of course, some of them walk in angry and stay that way. They may even win the first pot, but complain that it was not big enough. Perhaps they are reacting to something that happened elsewhere; perhaps they are just mad at the world, but their anger is nearly overwhelming.

People like that shouldn’t play poker, but they do, and they often lose heavily and disrupt the game. Most other anger problems are caused by the following factors.

Low frustration tolerance: Some people blow up over events that others barely notice. Low tolerance is deadly for a poker player because our game is intrinsically frustrating. We often lose real money, sometimes more than we can afford. Because we play against many opponents, we lose far more hands than we win, and the best hand and best player often lose. In addition, losing is worse at poker than at craps or other games of pure luck because it says we don’t play well. Many people deny their weakness and say, in effect, “If the world was not such a rotten place, I would be fine.”

Bad Beats: Are often the immediate cause for anger, and for some people losing any hand – even when they are underdogs – is a “bad beat.” We have all seen people erupt because their pocket kings lost to pocket aces, or because they “never make a flush.”

When someone sucks out, anger is extremely common. Some people cannot handle such beats, even though they usually occur when other players make mistakes. Since most of our profits come from other people’s mistakes, getting angry about them is ridiculous. If nobody made mistakes, the rake and tokes would bust us all.

Unrealistic expectations: Many people have extremely unrealistic expectations. For example, they don’t know how hard it is to win because of the rake and tokes, especially at smaller stakes. Countless people – including some mediocre players –think they should win more than one BB per hour, and a few even expect to support themselves by playing. When they don’t get the expected results, they angrily ask, “How can I be so terribly unlucky?”

Many others can’t accept that poker is gambling, and bad luck, bad beats, and losing streaks are absolutely unavoidable. If you can’t accept that reality, you shouldn’t play, but many people keep playing and steaming.

Overestimation of our abilities: Most people do not play remotely as well as they think they do. They play in games they can’t beat and then get mad about their “bad luck.” It’s easier to blame luck than to accept the truth about themselves.

Selective memories: We naturally remember events that support our beliefs and forget conflicting evidence. For example, because we think we are good, but unlucky, we remember our bad beats, but forget the times that we played stupidly and sucked out.

Personalizing conflicts: Since we take each other’s money, our game is full of conflict. It’s just the nature of the game, but many people take losing very personally, and it costs them dearly.

Machismo: The tendency to personalize conflicts is particularly strong for macho men (and a few women). The psychology forum at has had two extremely long series of posts about whether “real men” should violently beat up people who suck out and then needle them. Such a childish over-reaction indicates how serious the anger management problem can be.

Vicious circle: Many of these factors reinforce each other. Unrealistic expectations and overestimation of our abilities increase frustrations because we expect to beat games that are too tough for us. Our selective memories reinforce both our overestimation of our abilities and our anger about being “so unlucky.”  Machismo aggravates almost everything.


Anger management is a serious problem, and for some people it is a crippling one. Part II will discuss recent developments that have aggravated the problem. Part III will suggest ways to ease the problem, but it will never be solved. The forces creating it are too powerful to overcome completely.

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¹This post is based on a series of columns written for Card Player Magazine. has about 200 of my columns. At you can purchase my fifteen books in several languages.


Why Do So Many Poker Pros Die Broke? Part Two

By Alan N. Schoonmaker, Ph.D

Part One said that arrogance was the primary cause, and it discussed six serious mistakes that were partly caused by arrogance:

  1. They don’t save money.
  2. They invest poorly.
  3. They play other games.
  4. They cheat on their taxes.
  5. They don’t buy health insurance.
  6. They don’t protect their health.

This article will discuss three more mistakes and recommend the first step toward correcting all nine.

They Deny Reality About Aging

Every sensible person knows that mental abilities decline with age. Sadly, some older pros ignore that painful fact. I’d like to ignore it, but it’s too obvious.

Two abilities that severely deteriorate are critically important in poker:

  • Short-term memory
  • Thinking speed.

Poker is a very “now” game. When the action is to you, you have only a few seconds to make a decision. If you can’t quickly remember what the other players have done, read their cards, predict how they will react to your decisions, and adjust your play, you can’t beat anybody except extremely weak players. Unfortunately, only tiny games have many extremely weak players, and you can’t make a living in those games.

Even if an older pro’s play hasn’t deteriorated, his edge has decreased because the games have gotten much tougher. Because of books, websites, computer simulations, and other training tools, many players are better, and the best young players are better than the Hall of Famers.

We can’t objectively compare poker immortals to today’s players, but we can compare athletes. Modern athletes have shattered virtually every record. They run and swim faster, jump higher and longer, and lift heavier weights. Similar progress has been made in poker and other games.

Dan Harrington is an excellent example. He was once a world-class backgammon player. After not playing for several years, he used the new computer tools. He told me, “I was unquestionably a much better player than I had been before, but I was no longer world class. The game had advanced more than I had.”

Poker is advancing just as rapidly. To stay competitive, you must improve even though your mental abilities are declining. But you won’t work hard on your game unless you accept that fact.

They Don’t Adapt Well to Changes

The good players’ mantra is, “It depends on the situation.” Our situation changes constantly. When an older pro’s career began, draw and low ball were popular games. Now they are now rarely spread. Seven card stud and limit hold’em replaced them, and they have nearly disappeared. Today’s favorite game is no-limit hold’em (NLH).

Changing games is difficult, and switching from limit to no-limit requires huge mental and emotional adjustments. Roy Cooke, Card Player’s senior columnist, told me that he switched easily from limit stud to limit hold’em, but had a tough time switching to NLH. Less talented pros or ones who aren’t as hard-working and self-critical would have tougher times, and many couldn’t make that switch.

Many games have become much more aggressive. Until recently a four-bet almost always meant that a player had aces or kings. Today some players – especially “young guns” – will four-bet and five-bet with much weaker hands. Adjusting to these games can be extremely difficult.

Adjusting to changes is particularly hard for older people. They become less flexible and don’t learn as quickly. A folk saying summarizes their inability to learn: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Adjusting to aggressive NLH games is particularly hard for older people. They are generally more risk-averse than younger ones. Today’s games create bigger swings and risks, and require a much more aggressive strategy. Many older pros can’t make that switch.

They Play Above Their Bankrolls

Many authorities have recommended playing within conservative bankroll limits, and arrogance makes some pros ignore those limits. They think, “Perhaps other pros should accept those recommendations, but I am so talented that they don’t apply to me.”

This arrogance is particularly destructive for older pros. The minimum bankroll required is determined by the stakes, their edge, and other factors. As their skill deteriorates, their edge gets smaller, creating a need for a larger bankroll. Too many pros absolutely refuse to accept that obvious fact. They play in games that are much too big for their bankrolls.

My friend, Robyn Salisbury, emailed me that the old bankroll limits don’t fit today’s more aggressive games. Because the swings are so much larger, you need a much larger bankroll than you did just a few years ago.

Jan Siroky, a respected tournament coach, said this principle applies even more to tournaments than to cash games. If a player gets lucky, he can win a huge prize. Some players don’t realize that one big win doesn’t mean they have the bankroll or skills to play much larger tournaments. They may quickly lose that large prize by playing in tournaments that are too big and too tough for them. They may not learn from that loss, keep playing in the wrong tournaments, and lose their entire bankroll.

What  Should You Do?

My next blog will contain specific recommendations, including obvious ones such as save money and play within your bankroll. But the mere fact that they are obvious doesn’t mean you’ll take those steps. You’re unlikely to protect your future unless you take the essential first step: Critically analyze yourself.

Although I’ve repeatedly referred to older pros, most of my points apply to all pros, including very young ones. For example, the time to start saving money for your retirement is now. If you save money every month, you’ll have the funds you need to live comfortably when you can’t play as well as you do now.

The time to improve your skills is also now. If you don’t use the new training tools, your edge and bankroll will slowly disappear.

Arrogance is everywhere. You have it. So do I. And we can’t afford it. If we aren’t honest about our limitations, we will greatly increase the danger of dying broke.

These two blogs discussed nine reasons that so many pros die broke. Read and think about all nine and ask yourself, “Do I make that mistake?”

Almost everyone, including you and me, make them too often. It’s more fun to spend money than to save it, to play poker than to work on our skills.

Answer these questions honestly. Think carefully about your future. You certainly don’t want to end up broke, and you should recognize that it can happen to you. What should you do now to ensure that you can always live comfortably?

Ask someone you trust to comment on your answers. Tell them, “Please don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I need honest feedback. Tell me what you really think.”

Listen carefully to their comments. You may be very surprised. The more surprised you are, the more you needed that feedback. It may offend you, but – if you accept it and react intelligently – it can make the difference between dying broke and living comfortably.

Why Do So Many Poker Pros Die Broke? Part Three

By Alan Schoonmaker, Ph.D.

Parts One and Two of this article said that arrogance was the primary cause for dying broke, and they discussed nine mistakes. This post will recommend steps you should take to avoid that grim fate.

Start a Retirement Savings Program NOW

Don’t think, “I’ll save money someday.” Regard retirement saving as an expense, just like your rent or car payment. If you start now, relatively small, regular contributions plus compound interest will build the funds you need to live comfortably in your final years.

For more than eighty years the federal government has forced and encouraged people to save for retirement. Social Security forces people to save, and many programs encourage saving.

Because these programs let you deduct your contributions from your taxable income, the government essentially adds money to your account. The government increases its subsidy by not taxing your interest, dividends, and other profits until you retire. Since your income tax rate will be much lower then, you’ll pay less tax. You’ll also get the money when you need it much more than you need it now.

These programs usually include severe penalties for early withdrawal. These penalties will discourage you from raiding your program when you run short of cash, and many poker pros occasionally run short.

The government wants to give you money. Take it!

Get Professional Financial Planning Advice

Good retirement planning is like good poker planning. “It depends on the situation.” There are many retirement savings programs, and the government constantly modifies them. The right program depends upon your income, net worth, age, family situation, and other factors that only a professional can apply skillfully.

You also need professional advice to select investments. You couldn’t succeed as a pro if you weren’t very smart. But poker is your game, not investing. You have often heard that the most important poker decision is Game Selection. Don’t play games you don’t play well.

Don’t Play Other Casino Games

The principle of sticking to the right game applies even more forcefully inside casinos. Even if you make some investment mistakes, saving regularly should build an adequate retirement fund. If you play the wrong casino games, you’ll probably go broke, and you may do it again and again.

Many poker pros lose heavily at craps, sports betting, and other games. They know these games are negative EV, but can’t accept that reality. They arrogantly believe they can beat unbeatable games, and their pathological need for action overwhelms their logical brains.

The same craving for action causes some great tournament players to be huge cash game losers. They may swear off playing cash games, but don’t have the discipline to wait for the right tournament. They need action now, especially right after busting out of a tournament. So they move to a cash game, and it costs them dearly.

Keep good records. Whenever you feel an intense need to play a game you haven’t beaten, don’t lie to yourself and pretend you’ll beat it now. Don’t pretend that you won’t repeat the mistake you’ve made so many times. Get away from that irresistible temptation. Leave the casino IMMEDIATELY.

Don’t Cheat on Your Taxes

Cheating is tempting, but extremely stupid. You probably think, “The IRS can’t know how much I win in cash games.”


The IRS knows immeasurably more about how to how to catch cheaters than you can ever know about how to cheat. You can probably get away with cheating, but the risks are so huge that it’s extremely -EV. You may pay massive penalties and fines, and you could spend years in prison.

The most visible and memorable example of imprisoned tax cheaters was Al Capone. The police, FBI, and other organizations couldn’t get him, but the IRS proved that he couldn’t maintain his expensive lifestyle on the income he reported. They might make the same case against you, and you’d go to prison.

I don’t like paying taxes any more than you do, and I take every legitimate deduction. But, as I said earlier, the government rewards you for obeying the law, and punishes you for violating it. If I hadn’t paid taxes and Social Security and contributed to tax-sheltered retirement programs, I wouldn’t have a comfortable income from my Social Security and IRA, nor would I be eligible for Medicare.

If you don’t pay Social Security for ten years, you don’t get Medicare. As you get older, your medical costs normally increase enormously. Without Medicare you’re not just risking going broke. You’re gambling with your health and life.

You may believe you won’t get Social Security or Medicare because the programs will go broke. That fear is correct actuarially, but naive politically. If current trends continue the system will go broke, but the politicians won’t let it happen.


It would be political suicide, and politicians’ top priority is getting elected again and again. Old people are a large and ever-increasing percentage of the population. They and their children would vote against any politician who didn’t protect their pensions and Medicare.

Buy Health Insurance

Medical costs have destroyed the bankrolls of many pros, and these costs aren’t the only reason to buy insurance. Insurance companies and Medicare will help you to stay healthy because it’s much cheaper than treatment.

They will pay for checkups and other actions that you wouldn’t take if you had to pay for them. If you have health insurance, you’ll be healthier, play better, and live longer.

Switch to a Healthier Lifestyle

Many pros neglect their health. They eat too much of the wrong kinds of food and don’t exercise enough. So they have higher medical costs and don’t feel well enough to play their A-game. They win less money and die too soon.

You have absolutely no excuse for an unhealthy lifestyle. There are hundreds of books and articles, and you don’t even need them. You already have a good general idea of what you should do. You just won’t do it.

Stop denying reality about your health. Commit yourself to eating wisely, exercising regularly, and seeing your doctor twice a year, even if you feel great. Routine health screenings have saved countless lives, and they could save yours.

Get a Straight Job

Every well-trained financial planner recommends diversification. And you don’t need that advice. You’ve repeatedly been told, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

That principle applies to any basket, but it’s especially true for poker. Swings and losing streaks are inevitable. If you depend too much on your poker profits, several bad things will happen:

  1. All your income and assets will always be at risk.
  2. You’ll increase your psychological vulnerability. When you’re running bad, you’ll feel much worse than pros with more balanced lives. The worse you feel, the worse you’ll play. You can easily go on tilt and lose everything.
  3. You can’t be as selective about where and when you play. If you need money for your expenses, you’ll play when the games too tough or you don’t feel well enough to play your A-game.
  4. Your effective bankroll will be smaller. You’ll have to take the risks of playing above your bankroll or reduce your profits by playing in smaller games.

When I suggest taking a straight job, many pros are horrified. They think it’s admitting that they don’t play well enough to make it.


Some very successful players have straight jobs, including Bobby Baldwin, Dan Harrington, and three of my friends: Linda Johnson, Jan Fisher, and Roy Cooke. Despite being excellent players, they all recognize the danger of being total dependent upon poker. They play winning poker, but have solid incomes from other sources.

Linda and Jan run Card Player Cruises, work as tournament directors, and helped to start the World Poker Tour. Roy is a very successful realtor.


Stop pretending that you’re so special that you’re not in danger. Too many pros have died broke. Don’t become one of them. Start preparing for a comfortable retirement and old age NOW!

This post is based on the third column in a Card Player Magazine series. At you can read about 200 of my columns.

Why Do So Many Poker Pros Die Broke?

Because there aren’t any reliable statistics, nobody knows how many pros die broke. But it’s certainly too many.

If you’re a pro, you have a much higher probability of dying broke than members of other professions, including people who earn much less than you’re winning now. Of course, you think it won’t happen to you, but that’s what they thought before they got busted.

This series of articles will analyze why it happens so often and recommend ways to avoid it.

The Primary Cause

Most of the specific causes discuss here have one common factor: arrogance. Self-confidence is essential for a pro, but you shouldn’t believe, “I’m too special to die broke.”

No, you’re not. You’re just another talented player, and it’s happened to many talented players. Are you more talented than Johnny Moss, Stu Ungar, Devilfish Ulliot, and Gavin Smith? Do you win more money?

Johnny won the first two WSOP championships, but ended up dependent on the Binions’ charity. Stu was history’s greatest no-limit tournament player, but he died in a crummy motel. He was a junkie, but drugs weren’t the only cause for his tragic ending. Devilfish and Gavin won millions in tournaments and cash games, but Phil Hellmuth and other pros are running charity tournaments to help their families.

Nolan Dalla covered the tournament circuit for years. He wrote: “One of the most troubling aspects of the tournament circuit is seeing how many players are constantly broke. I’m not talking about bad poker players or novices. I’m talking about names and faces everyone would recognize…

“If former World Series of Poker winners are broke, what chance do you have of making it on the circuit? … the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you.”

You may say, “That’s irrelevant. I know tournaments are too risky. That’s why I play only for cash.”

So what?

If you walk into many large poker rooms, you’ll see players who once beat big cash games struggling to survive in small ones. In fact, the worst fate isn’t dying broke; it’s living broke for your final years.

As you read this article, ask yourself, “How often do I make these mistakes?”

They Don’t Save Money

 It’s the most common and easily avoided mistake. For thousands of years wise people have spent less than they made. In the Old Testament Joseph advised the Pharaoh to save grain in good years to avoid starvation in the bad ones.

You can easily see arrogance’s effects. Dozens of authorities have written that losing streaks are inevitable and recommended saving money. But too many pros think, “That doesn’t apply to me because I’ll always beat the game.”

No you won’t! 

You may never have a catastrophic losing streak, but variance virtually guarantees that you won’t always beat the game. If you add the fact that your mental abilities will decline with age, you’ll certainly have some bad years. Even if you’re a net winner, you may not cover your expenses.

They Invest Poorly

 Of course, some pros do save money, but they may not invest it well. Again, we see the effects of arrogance. They think, “I’m so smart that I don’t need any advice from investment professionals.” They often make amateurish investment mistakes.

They Play Other Games

 Some pros essentially ship money from poker tables to craps and other unbeatable games. “They may never admit it, even to themselves, but in their secret hearts they believe: “Those games may be unbeatable for ordinary people, but not for me. I’m so superior that the laws of probability and lots of other rules don’t apply to me.

“Arrogance also causes some outstanding tournament players to be ‘live ones’ in cash games … when some of them make the final table, their side-game opponents cheer them on. If they have a big tournament payday, their opponents will get a nice piece of it.

“Their arrogance prevents them from learning from their past losses. They delude themselves that this time will be different, that their true superiority will allow them to beat games that have repeatedly defeated them.”

They Cheat On Their Taxes

 Some pros cheat, and a few don’t even file tax returns. Believe it or not, honestly paying your taxes can increase your long-term security.

First, you’ll pay more social security, a forced saving for retirement. Because the cost of living allowance frequently increases benefits, most people get back much more than they contributed.

After reading this statement in Card Player Magazine, an angry reader insisted I was wrong. I’m sure many other people, perhaps including you, think that they pay in more than they get back. They’re wrong. Here’s a study that proves it.

Ask some struggling older pros, “Do you get much social security?” Some will say, “No,” and a few will admit, “I don’t get any.”

Second, if you don’t pay social security for at least ten years, you’re not eligible for Medicare. Medical costs become immensely higher as you get older, and they have busted countless older pros. Some older pros have severe health problems or die prematurely because they can’t afford treatments or preventative health care.

Third, you can use programs to deduct your retirement contributions, and the interest, dividends, and other profits accumulate tax free until you retire. You’ll build a secure retirement fund.

They Don’t Buy Health Insurance

 It’s another effect of arrogance. Too many pros, especially young ones, think, “I don’t need health insurance because I’ll always be healthy.” They may be right, but it’s an extremely foolish risk.

Without health insurance your entire bankroll, health, and even your life are at risk every day. Too many pros have been busted by the enormous costs of an illness or accident.

They Don’t Protect Their Health

 On this issue arrogance has subtler effects. You’ve read that you should eat healthy foods and exercise regularly, but may ignore the recommendations. Some pros subconsciously believe, “Those rules don’t apply to me.”

They rarely exercise and eat badly. They may even sneer at authorities such as Dr. Cardner because they think her recommendations about diet and exercise are irrelevant for poker players.

It’s another form of arrogance. They think that poker is unique, that the rules that apply to other activities don’t apply to playing poker.


We have exactly the same bodies as everyone else, and mistreating our bodies has the same effects. We can’t play well if we don’t feel well.

Worse yet, poor health has much greater effects on poker pros’ incomes than on the incomes of other professionals. The late Barry Tanenbaum, wrote: “Professional poker is a ruthless meritocracy.”

You can make a living as a mediocre salesman, teacher, lawyer, carpenter, or doctor. Most people are mediocre, but nearly everyone makes a living. You can’t survive as a poker pro unless you’re among the best.

If you neglect your health, you’ll have higher medical costs, and you won’t play well enough to pay them. You probably won’t just die broke. You’ll also die a lot sooner.

What’s Next?

Future posts will describe other causes for dying broke and tell you how to retire securely. I hope you take them seriously. They can save your bankroll, your health, and your life.


i“So You Wanna’ Be a Tournament Pro? Fuhgetaboutit!”

iiAlan Schoonmaker, “Arrogance, the Biggest Bankroll Buster.” Card Player, September 13, 2002


Emotional Intelligence And Negotiating Tournament Poker Deals

“These days computers analyze the crap out of everything …. geeks have created range vs. range analysis software that solves most poker problems.”

Those provocative words began Roy Cooke’s Card Player Magazine column about reading people. He explained that mechanically applying formulas causes serious mistakes. You should also study and adjust to people’s thoughts and feelings because they will often decisively change the way people play their hands.

I agree wholeheartedly, and the same principle applies more forcefully to negotiating tournament deals. Computer formulas tell you what the “right” or “fair” deal is, but, applying formulas without analyzing players’ emotions and thoughts will cost you lots of money.

Teaching negotiating strategy and psychology has been my profession since writing my doctoral dissertation about them at The University of California, Berkeley. I taught Ph.D. candidates at UCLA and employees of the world’s largest multi-nationals in twenty countries. My clients included GM, Chase, IBM, Chrysler, Mobil, Wells Fargo, and more than twenty-five others. Their 2018 revenues exceeded $2 trillion, about 10% of the American GDP.

Jan Siroky, a tournament coach, and I agree that many business negotiating principles apply to negotiating tournament deals. I call an important principle:

The Foundation Of Negotiations

Nothing has an objective value.  Everything is worth whatever a seller will accept and a buyer will pay. Of course, “buyer” and “seller” can mean the people on opposing sides of any type of deal.

You may detest this principle. Many people, especially mathematically-sophisticated analysts, think there is or should be a correct price, one they can determine by factual analysis.

They can make brilliant arguments about why you should use this or that formula, but they ignore the fact that all deals, whether in business or at poker  tables, are made by people, not computers.

Let’s relate that principle to a loss that greatly exceeds the total prize pools of all the poker tournaments in history. On Black Monday, October 19, 1987, over one trillion dollars was lost on the world’s stock exchanges. How much change had occurred in the reported assets, profits, sales, and other objective values of the listed companies since the preceding Friday?

Not one penny!

Companies don’t report or even calculate their profits and assets daily. The only changes were people’s emotions and thoughts. Because they were scared, people suddenly changed their minds about what stocks were worth.

Here’s a much smaller example of that principle. Antique dealers say, “I tried to sell that chest for $500 and couldn’t move it. I sold it at auction for $650, and the buyer had seen it, but didn’t buy it, in my shop for $500!”

The chest was exactly the same, but the auction changed the buyers’ opinion of its value. They may have thought, “If other bidders offer that much, it’s worth more than I thought.” Or they may have forgotten they had seen it at a lower price and just wanted to beat the other bidders.

It doesn’t matter why they would pay more. All that matters is that they would pay more. Learning what others are willing to pay or accept is a critically important negotiating important skill.

Because there are no objective values, you should always try to “get into their heads.” What do they think this deal is worth? The more quickly and accurately you answer that question, the better deals you will get.

What Should You Do?

Am I saying you should focus only on psychology and ignore the formulas?

Absolutely not!

Understand and apply the formulas to get the general range of possible deals. Then study, satisfy, and exploit the other players’ emotions and thoughts to get them to accept a deal at the best part of that range for you.

Because he believes he’s the best player, one chip-leader doesn’t want a deal. Because he’s tired or lacks confidence in his skills, another chip leader is eager to settle. A Maniac with a tiny stack will resist settling, while a Rock with the same stack will take almost any deal. The Maniac loves gambling, and the Rock is afraid of risks.

One average stack is depressed because he just took a bad beat. Another player with an equal stack just doubled up and feels lucky. Despite similar stacks, they will accept very different deals. In fact, the same player will accept different deals when he’s feeling up or down.

The formulas completely exclude these emotions, and the people who rely too heavily on formulas don’t even consider any desire except money. You know that people play poker for many reasons, not just to win money. They also have widely varying motives for proposing, accepting, or rejecting tournament deals. Occasionally, they even trade serious cash for glory.

Preston Oade, the author of The Art and Science of Poker Tournament Selection: Choosing the Games that Best Match Your Playemailed me an example. From his work as a very successful attorney, he knew when to learn what people really want. Here’s his story.

“I was playing the final table of a $600 buy-in event. The remaining prize pool was about $45,000. Seven were left; it was 4:30 AM; and we’d played since noon. We were all tired, and most of us had enough chips to play for hours. One player suggested a deal based on chip stacks.

The payouts would range from $2,500 to $12,000. Everyone wanted a deal except the short stack, who insisted on playing it out. The others tried to pressure him, but he insisted on playing.

I quietly asked him, “What do you want?”

“I want first place and the ring that goes with it.”  He wanted to show his children a championship ring. He didn’t care about the money. We quickly agreed to split the prize pool six ways. The short stack got the ring, but no money. Because we would all got more money, we quickly agreed. We were all tired, and everyone seemed satisfied with the outcome.”

If Preston had not asked that question, they might have played several hours, and most of them probably would have been less satisfied with the outcome.

Unfortunately, most Americans won’t ask enough or the right kinds of questions. Because negotiations are not part of our culture, many of us don’t seriously think about how to negotiate deals.  We wouldn’t think of haggling at Walmart or most other places.

Because we rarely do it, we’re too uncomfortable to take the time to prepare and negotiate effectively in poker tournaments and many other places. Not negotiating well can cost you lots of money.

Fight Your Discomfort

Your discomfort is the enemy. It makes many people, perhaps including you, accept terrible deals in business, as consumers, and at the tables.

Don’t yield to that discomfort. You can’t play winning poker without taking many unnatural, uncomfortable actions. Negotiating tournament deals makes similar demands.

Don’t play well, but negotiate poorly.

Future blogs will describe tactics you will probably dislike, but – if you can fight your discomfort – they will make you hundreds or thousands of dollars!

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¹ This article is based on  a column in Card Player Magazine. It’s the oldest and most respected poker periodical. You can read about 200 of my columns at CARDPLAYER.COM.



When SHOULDN’T You Use Trump’s Negotiating Strategy?

An earlier blog answered the opposite question: “When should you use Trump’s negotiating strategy?”

It began, “Some people would answer, “Always! He’s gotten some great deals.”

Other people would insist, “Never! He’s made so many enemies that he should be impeached!”

Both answers are based on emotions, and anyone who says them is ignoring facts that conflict with their emotional reactions.

He has unquestionably:

  • Gotten many great deals
  • Created many enemies

I recently published an online course at Udemy titled: “Is Trump’s Negotiating Strategy Right For YOU?”

It provides the only rational answer to that question: You should use Trump’s strategy ONLY in certain situations.

If you always use his strategy, you will:

  • Create lots of enemies
  • Miss many good deals.

If you never use his strategy, you will:

  • Leave lots of money on the table
  • Get some terrible deals, especially when you negotiate with someone like Trump.

In other words, you should adjust your strategy to fit the situation. This blog will tell you when you shouldn’t use his strategy.


Trump makes a common mistake: He does what makes him comfortable, even when it’s exactly the wrong strategy. Don’t make his mistake. Carefully analyze the situation before you choose your strategy. Don’t bargain hard when …

You Have Important Common Interests.

The more important your common interests are, the more you should cooperate. Countless deals have been lost because one or both parties were so intent on winning that they ignored the fact that their common interests were much more important than their conflicts.

You Want a Harmonious Relationship.

The more important the relationship is, and the more you want to preserve it, the more cooperative you should be.

Trump is an excellent example. His extreme aggression has ruined important relationships with Congress and many foreign leaders. Under our system of government, the president and the congress can’t do their jobs without cooperating. He makes some people so irrationally angry that they ignore the consequences and just fight him.

You Are Weaker Or Power Is Approximately Equal


The weaker you are, the more you should cooperate. Since you don’t have the power, don’t play a power-based game.


Because you will lose.

Bargaining hard from a weak position would be similar to small kid’s challenging the schoolyard bully. He’ll get his ass kicked.

You Trust Them

The more you trust people, the more trustworthy you should be. Trust is extremely fragile. If you copy Trump and lie, bluff, change positions, and use other power-oriented tactics, you will often destroy that trust. Once trust is lost, it’s difficult or impossible to get it back.

It’s Hard To Evaluate Implementation.

The harder it is to know how well it’s been implemented, the more cooperative you should be. For example, if you bargain aggressively and an auto mechanic agrees to fix your car for a very low price, he may install used parts or just do inferior work. Your car may run well at first, but quickly break down.

They Are Cooperating

If they are cooperating, it usually pays to do the same. You’ll probably reach a deal that satisfies both parties and builds your relationship.

You may be tempted to bargain hard to exploit their openness and cooperation. If you bargain hard, you’ll probably get a very good deal, but you may damage or completely destroy the relationship. Many people – especially competitive ones – can’t resist the opportunity to exploit anyone who is too open and cooperative. They often regret it. They win the battle, but lose the war.

So what should you do?


Oversimplification is an extremely common mistake. Hardly anyone wants to analyze all these issues. They’d rather just, “go with their gut.” They may claim that they trust their gut, but they are really just doing what makes them comfortable, not what the situation demands.

It’s not easy to consider all of them, but the more issues you consider, and the more thoroughly you analyze them, the better decisions you will make.

Sometimes, you should ignore relationship issues and bargain hard to get the best deal. Sometimes, you shouldn’t care about this deal and do whatever will improve or preserve your relationship. Generally, you should BALANCE your desires for a good deal and a good relationship.


Don’t trust your gut.

Ignore your own comfort.

Thoroughly analyze all the issues.

Select a strategy that correctly balances competition and cooperation.

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Do you believe your bosses want you to make every possible deal?

I certainly hope not. Your bosses really want you to make profitable deals. They want you to walk away from bad deals. 

That’s one of the principles of my new online course at Is Trump’s Negotiating Strategy Right For YOU? It’s based on the live courses I’ve taught to the world’s largest multinationals in twenty countries. I’ve interviewed senior executives in many of those companies, and virtually all of them want their subordinates to be tougher, to negotiate deals that increase the bottom line.

They would agree with this blog’s title: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” Here’s just one example.

Top management of a major publishing house hired me to teach negotiating skills to their acquiring editors, the people who negotiate contracts with authors. This publisher had been purchased by a huge conglomerate that was extremely dissatisfied with its poor profits. The executive who hired me insisted that their editors had to become much tougher because the firm was writing off over $100 million in unearned author advances.

When I told the class that this was our objective, one editor angrily objected, “Those bean counters at X (the conglomerate) don’t understand that publishing is different from most industries. If I don’t overpay for a big book, I won’t get a chance to bid on future big books. I have to prove to the agents that I’m a player.”

I replied, “You mean if you don’t lose money on this book, you won’t get a chance to lose money on the next one.”

She was furious. She didn’t say another word, sat in class fuming until we broke for coffee, left, and never came back. Within a few months she left the firm. I don’t know whether she quit or was fired, but do know that her negotiating objective was extraordinarily stupid. She neglected her firm’s bottom line and top management’s priority because she wanted to be “a player.” If you value your career, don’t make her mistake.

You may think, “That’s an interesting story, but it’s just one anecdote. I’d like more solid evidence.” That’s a reasonable position, so here are some spectacularly bad deals:

  1. In 2004-2007 bankers and millions of their customers wished that mortgage loans for over a trillion dollars had never been made. The bankers took huge losses on the loans, and the customers bought houses they couldn’t afford and frequently lost through foreclosure.
  2. Several American cities cannot provide essential services because so much of their budgets is spent for employees’ pensions. The cities’ negotiators gave in again and again to excessive demands.
  3. World War II could have been prevented if Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, had refused at Munich to yield to Hitler’s outrageous demands.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer: No deal is UNQUESTIONABLY better than a bad deal.

Walking away rather settling for an unsatisfactory deal may make you very uncomfortable, but you’ll just have to accept that short-term discomfort and become tougher.

Tough negotiating won’t just help your career. It will also put money – perhaps lots of money – into your pocket. You can’t negotiate good deals unless you’re willing to walk away from bad ones.

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WHAT’S YOUR NEGOTIATING STYLE? Take the Quiz to Find The Answer

Personal styles greatly affect negotiations.

  1. Donald Trump and people like him get some great deals, but lose deals and create enemies.
  2. Friendly people make many deals and have good relationships, but get exploited.
  3. Analytic people thoroughly study the issues, but they ignore personalities and essential

That is, every style has strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s look at your style. A brief quiz will identify your natural style. Then we’ll discuss your strengths and weakness.


For each question divide ten points among the three styles:

  1. Aggressive
  2. Friendly
  3. Analytic

You can give all ten points to one or two styles or divide them among all three.

Some questions ask what you do and why you do it. Others ask only what you do.

Don’t try to give the “right” answers because there aren’t any. Say what you really think, feel, and do.

  1. When negotiating, I emphasize:

___ A. Power

___ B. Friendly relationships

___ C. Facts & logic

  1. When I’m buying, my first offer is:

___ A. Much less than I’ll pay because I want to get the lowest price

___ B. Close to what I’ll pay because I don’t want to insult the seller

___ C. Very close to what I’ll pay because it’s the most reasonable offer

  1. When shaking hands, especially with strangers:

___ A. I move close, shake briefly and forcefully, squeeze their hand, and

look intently into their eyes. My body language says, “I’m stronger,

smarter, and tougher than you are.”

___ B. I move close, shake gently, hold their hand for long time, and smile

warmly. My body language says, “Let’s be friends.”

___ C. I stay far away, shake briefly, and have little eye contact. My body

language says, “I don’t want a personal relationship.”

  1. Which word best describes you?

___ A. Aggressive

___ B. Friendly

___ C. Analytic

  1. When preparing to negotiate, I emphasize learning:

___ A. People’s strengths and weaknesses

___ B. People’s personalities

___ C. Objective facts such as the market and production costs

  1. When negotiating, I communicate:

___ A. Deceptively to increase my power and hide my weaknesses

___ B. Openly to create a trusting relationship

___ C. Openly so everybody has enough information to solve the


  1. My primary negotiating objective is to:

___ A. Win

___ B. Have a good relationship

___ C. Reach a rational deal

  1. My feelings about hard bargaining are:

___ A. Positive, I love competition

___ B. Negative, I detest competition

___ C. Negative, hard bargaining doesn’t produce rational deals

  1. I’d define a “good negotiation” as one that:

___ A. I win

___ B. Improves our relationship

___ C. Produces a rational deal

  1. I prefer to negotiate with:

___ A. Successful people. I don’t waste time with lightweights.

___ B. Nice people. I want friendly relationships.

___ C. Logical people. I want to focus on the facts in a logical way.


Add up the points for A, B, and C and insert the total in the proper space. Make sure the three scores total 100.

  1. Aggressive        ___
  2. Friendly ___
  3. Analytic ___


If a score was 55 or higher, it’s your natural style. The higher your score, the more extreme your style is. For example, Trump would get close to 100% aggressive.

If none of your scores is 55 or higher, but two scores total 80 or more, you’re that combination of styles.

If none of your scores was 55 or higher, and no two scores totaled 80, your style is balanced.


EVERY style has strengths and weaknesses.

EVERY style will succeed in some situations and fail in others.

Here’s a summary of the three basic styles’ strengths and weaknesses.


Negotiating Strengths: Their greatest strength is their love for bargaining. Discomfort makes many people avoid or rush through negotiations, but they enjoy playing the game.

They excel in adversarial negotiations, such as about prices.

They enjoy making extreme demands, stonewalling, bluffing, expressing anger, and even lying. These tactics often succeed because most people can’t or won’t act that way.

They will push right to the limit, getting virtually every penny on the table.

Negotiating Weaknesses: They are ter­rible at satisfying other people’s needs, working together to solve common problems, and building trusting relationships.

They compete even when they should cooperate. They have to win, even if a victory costs them more than it’s worth. They often try to push past people’s limit, losing both the deal and the relationship.

They won’t create the trust, cooperation, and open communication needed to solve common problems.

They see compromises, not as a means to reach mutually satisfying deals or build good will, but as signs of weakness. They often won’t make essential  compromises.

They create enemies. Other people may refuse to make concessions they had intended or walk away from an acceptable deal. “I’d rather lose money than let that SOB run over me.”

They won’t change a bad strategy. Changing feels like admitting their original strategy was a mistake, and they won’t admit mistakes. Trump once said, “My style of deal making is quite simple and straightforward.  I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.”[1]

They often can’t fit together a mutually satisfactory deal because they are too insensitive to understand and respond to other people’s signals.

Their impatience and poor attention to details can make them rush into an agreement without fully understanding its implications. Serious implementation problems often occur.

They push too far. Either the negotiations break down, or the others ache for revenge, don’t implement the agreement well, or decide not to do any future business. They win the battle, but lose the war.


Negotiating Strengths: Their strengths and weaknesses are the opposite of aggressives’. One is strong where the other is weak.

Aggressives win some negotiations, but miss many deals. Friendlies make deals that aggressives couldn’t make, turn around bad relationships, and establish a foundation for future cooperation. They reach win-win deals because:

  • They want everyone to feel good about the deal and the way it was reached.
  • They reduce tensions, bring together people who don’t want to cooperate, and break deadlocks. Nearly every family and organization needs people like that.
  • Because they communicate openly and honestly, they encourage others to do the same. Both sides can build on a foundation of trust and good information.
  • Since they want to understand people and listen well, they learn others’ situations and motives.
  • Instead of considering only one or two possible deals, they may experiment and produce a creative, superior solution.
  • They build solid, trusting relationships. People like to work with them and may even accept an inferior deal because they know that they can be trusted.

These strengths make them valuable members of most families and organizations, especially intensely competitive ones.

NEGOTIATING WEAKNESSES: Their cooperative strengths can be much smaller than their bargaining weaknesses. Many negotiations don’t contain significant cooperative opportunities, but there is always conflict

Many friendlies deny reality about conflict. They essentially pretend it doesn’t exist. Without conflict there’s no need to negotiate.

Getting to Yes dishonestly became a best seller by pandering to the naïve belief that conflict doesn’t exist. It claimed its win-win approach is an “all-purpose strategy” that works in every situation, even with hijackers. A later edition repeated that lie after hijackers killed over 3,000 people by flying airplanes into the World Trade Center.

They openly share information and expect others to do the same. But many people withhold information, bluff, and lie while negotiating. The information friendlies give away is often used against them.

They make too many concessions. Even in obviously competitive situations such as price negotiations, they concede too much rather than fight for their fair share.


Negotiating Strengths: Their impersonality helps them to remain cool and analytic, even when others become emotional or irrational.

They prepare very thoroughly. They may carefully study the market, compare several products, and learn various vendors’ prices, reputation, and after sales service. This thoroughness builds their power:

  • They have important facts right at their fingertips.
  • They learn about other alternatives.
  • They can walk away from this deal and make a different one.

While negotiating, they analyze issues thoroughly and don’t act impetuously. They understand the implications of any position before acting.

Because they don’t talk carelessly, they often get much more information than they give. Some people to talk too much, even about sensitive subjects, trying to force some reaction from them.

They are willing to walk away rather than accept a bad deal or respond to an unrealistic position.

Their thoroughness reduces implementation problems. Everyone knows what to do.

Negotiating Weaknesses: Their greatest weakness is their dislike for negotiations, especially its “irrational” elements. They often respond to their discomfort, not to the negotiating process’ demands.

Although they prepare thoroughly about the issues, they often ignore “irrational” subjects such as the other people’s personalities and probable reactions.

They can be so uncomfortable that they try to convert bargaining sessions into analytic, problem-solving meetings.

They ignore essential rituals, especially the mutual concession ritual. (I give a little; you give a little; and we reach a deal that makes both of us feel we gained by negotiating). Many people regard that ritual as the essence of negotiations.

Instead of building “fat” into their proposal, then trading it away, analytics start near or even at their bottom line. Others resent their refusal to “bargain in good faith.” Rather than “lose” by making all the concessions, they just walk away, even if the analytic’s offer is within their range.

They are insensitive to other peoples’ motives and concerns. They miss signals, including quite obvious ones, because they don’t care what others want, think, or feel. They care only about objective facts and figures.

They may prepare so thoroughly that they won’t consider alternatives that haven’t been thoroughly researched. They may miss opportunities for more creative and mutually-beneficial deals.

They may also be too rigid because they believe that what is right or most cost-effective can’t be compromised. They may place so much emphasis upon certain facts, principles, or procedures that they can’t make compromises, especially tactical ones.

Too much time can be spent clarifying issues, including unimportant ones. There may not be  not enough time to make trades, explore creative alternatives, etc.

Predictability is their final weakness. Others can often accurately determine and exploit their limits, priorities, power, and strategy. Then they will use that knowledge against the analytics.


I hope you’re learned some valuable lessons from this quiz and discussion. But there’s lots more to learn. My book and online course will teach you how to:

  1. Build on your strengths and reduce your weaknesses
  2. Select the right strategy for various situations
  3. Adjust your style when negotiating with various types of people

For more information about my online course, click HERE.

For more information about my book, click HERE.

To subscribe to my blogs and newsletters, click HERE.

[1] “Flashy symbol of an acquisitive age: Donald Trump,” TIME, January 16, 1989.


Some people would answer, “Always! He’s gotten some great deals.”

Other people would insist, “Never! He’s made so many enemies that he should be impeached!”

Both answers are emotional, and anyone who says them is ignoring facts that conflict with their emotional reactions.

He has unquestionably:
• Gotten many great deals
• Created many enemies

I recently published an online course at titled: “Is Trump’s Negotiating Strategy Right For YOU?”

It provides the only rational answer to that question: You should use Trump’s strategy ONLY in certain situations.

If you always use his strategy, you will:

  • Create lots of enemies
  • Miss many good deals.

If you never use his strategy, you will:

  • Leave lots of money on the table
  • Get some terrible deals, especially when you negotiate with someone like Trump.

This site will tell you when you should use his strategy.

My next post will tell you when you shouldn’t use it.

Your Interests Clearly Conflict.

Price negotiations are the most obvious example. If you’re buying, you want the lowest price. If you’re selling, you want the highest one. Since every dollar you get costs the other party one dollar, you have what game theorists call a zero-sum game.

Those games have often been compared to cutting up the pie. The more you get, the less they get. You should obviously try to get as much as possible for yourself.

You Don’t Care About the Relationship.

The less you care about the relationship, the harder you should push for the best deal. If they don’t like it, so what? For example, when you’re buying a car from a stranger, you shouldn’t care whether he likes you.

You Are More Powerful.

Since you have the power, use it to get the best deal possible. On this point I must praise President Trump. Many previous presidents made terrible deals because they wouldn’t use America’s extraordinary power. Trump knows he is the most powerful man in the world, the leader of the largest economy and the strongest military. He loves renegotiating those deals, and he has often, but not always, done it exceptionally well.

Many people intensely dislike the way he uses his power, and they constantly criticize him, but he doesn’t care. He just wants to win. And although I detest him as a person, I want him to win.

You Don’t Trust Them.

If you don’t trust someone, you must bargain hard. Some people are much too trusting, and others – especially ones like Trump – take advantage of their gullibility. If you’re too trusting, you’ll make too many concessions. If you openly share information, it will probably be used against you.

It’s Easy to Evaluate Implementation.


If the deal is easy to implement and evaluate, bargain hard. For example, if you’re buying a child’s chair, all you have to do is give them the money and take it home. So try to get the lowest possible price.

They Are Bargaining Hard.

If they are aggressive and you’re passive, you will almost always lose

American diplomats have often made that mistake. For example, after World War II we were extraordinarily powerful, and the Russians were desperately weak. Millions of Russians had died, and their economy was devastated.

The Americans called Molotov, the Russians’ chief negotiator, “Old Stone Ass.” He just sat there refusing to budge, while the Americans made one concession after another, hoping he would “be reasonable.”

Of course, since he was winning, he had no desire to “be reasonable.” We essentially rewarded his stonewalling by giving away Eastern Europe and making many other extremely costly concessions. You can read all about this idiocy in my book, Negotiate to Win: Gaining The Psychological Edge, 2nd Edition.


Good negotiators adjust their strategy to fit the situation. Fools always negotiate the same way. You should use Trump’s strategy only when you have all these conditions.

  1. Your interests clearly conflict.
  2. You don’t care about the relationship.
  3. You are more powerful.
  4. You don’t trust them.
  5. It’s easy to evaluate implementation.
  6. They are bargaining hard.

My next post will describe the conditions that shout, “Don’t use his strategy!”