Women Business Execs Learn When to Hold and Fold 'Em

On the flip side, women are usually more risk averse and less assertive than men, a trait that carries over into business. "Assertiveness at the table is demonstrated by how you bet your chips, and women are reluctant to give up their chips," said Leikind. "Because women play not to lose, as opposed to playing to win. But it's not enough to just keep what you have; you have to get what everybody else has. That applies to business as well. You have to know how to manage risk and recover from lost."

On this night, Leikind and her card dealers spent about a half-hour teaching guests the basics of Texas Hold 'Em. After a few practice hands, the tournament began, albeit with fake chips. But the women, not surprisingly, were highly competitive--and upset when they lost.

Tracy Stern, the owner and CEO of Salontea, had been winning until another player--someone she "least expected"--bluffed her by putting in more chips. "I doubted myself, and I lost! It was a great lesson in life," said Stern. "You have to read the players. You have to play to win."

Bronfman did play to win, but no one was more shocked than she was when she discovered she had raked in $18,500 in chips, taking first place. "I had never played before. I had no clue," said Bronfman, who was given a trophy and a seat at a future tournament. "My strategy was reading people's faces. That's what I do. I own an ad agency. You create brands, and figure people out. I was watching people's faces. I didn't even know I won."

Leikind maintains that every businesswoman should learn poker, because it teaches her her value. "We always say--'if you want to be in the game, you have to be at the table," she said. "You need to take your seat at the table, even if no one invites you. In essence, the message is, 'You can learn everything you need to know at the poker table to give you an edge at the conference table.'"

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