Microsoft and The World Poker Tour

There’s a show called World Poker Tour. Every week they show the final table of 9 players from a tournament in which a couple of hundred people compete. Week after week, this is what you see:

  • A small elite of tournament pros who get to the final tables time after time
  • One or two representatives from a larger cadre of professionals who probably end up in the money, but not at the final table, of most tournaments they enter
  • “Amateurs” who are good poker players, but for whom luck almost certainly played a major role in getting to the table

Now, I’m not saying the amateurs are just lucky. For all the “two minutes to learn,” premise of the show, it isn’t trivial to calculate evolving odds on pots valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars without the slightest tell. And week after week, it’s shown that an a talented amateur with good cards can beat the most fearsome player with bad cards.  

Which brings us to Microsoft.

Scoble is having a blog-versation with Microsoft Monitor’s Joe Wilcox centering on Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen’s sleeping habits: whether Chizen should “stay awake at night” worrying about Microsoft (Wilcox’ stand) or sleep easy and exult in the morning’s fresh crop of new Windows customers.

I don’t give a hoot about how CEO’s of multi-hundred million dollar corporations sleep. I care about how entrepreneurial developers sleep. Or, to go back to our analogy with the World Poker Tour, I care about the amateurs trying to get to the final table.

Microsoft is like one of the tournament pros who appear at the final table time and again. Let’s say Phil Hellmuth, who’s a notorious trash-talking egotist who’s behavior at the table is calculated to intimidate and irritate people into poor play. Yes, if you’re considering “entering the tournament,” you should have an idea of how to play when this fearsome competitor has you in the sights. If it comes down to you and this competitor, good luck. If, on the other hand, your goal is simply to end up in the money you’re nuts to let fear keep you out of the game. Absolutely nuts.

You know Microsoft’s hand for years to come! Microsoft will “play” Whidbey, Yukon, Longhorn, and Office. If you make, say, a 3D modeling tool you will face fierce competition for the pot, but it won’t be from Redmond. It’s like knowing that Phil Hellmuth will be dealt a straight, a flush, and three of a kind: there may be some doubt as to the exact quality of the hands, but you will know their cards and their fundamental character and they will not know yours.

Microsoft will act like a poker pro: they will hint that they might Assimilate You, they will hint that they might Crush You Like A Bug, they will move their chips towards the pot and see if you sweat or smile. They will analyze you. And then you know what they’ll do? They’ll offer to buy you out of the tournament. They don’t do this on WPT, but it happens all the time in real gambling tournaments: everyone makes their “expected value” calculation, talks about it rationally, and an arrangement is made.


There was more here, but I decided to cut out the gung-ho stuff. Gambling, whether in a poker tournament or entrepreneurially, isn’t for everyone and if you need some geeky Weblog to bolster your courage, it’s probably not the right choice for you.