Play the man, not the odds

play the man

If you ever played poker, you’ve probably heard the term “play the man, not the odds”. Well, that saying also works in business. Let me explain…

Would you rather use logic or emotions to win a deal? Logic, right? To some extent you are right, but logic won’t get you the best deal. If you want to come on top in a deal, you need to use both logic and emotions.

Over the last 10 years, I went from being able to close four-figure deals to being able to close seven-figure deals. It took me a long time because no one taught me to play the man (using emotions) instead of playing the odds (using logic).

Here is a step by step approach that will help you to play the man and not the odds:

Step #1: Make them nervous

When someone gets nervous, it throws them off guard and makes them unsure of what to do. Do you know what the best way to do this is? It’s to show that you are the alpha male of the group (AMOG). While some people may claim to hate AMOGs, people are still drawn to them as they want to be associated with them.

So, how can you establish yourself as the AMOG with a potential customer or partner?

  • Be direct – people are used to others cutting to the chase. It shows that you don’t care.
  • Be assertive – don’t be passive with your tone of voice. People want to do business with people who have confidence.
  • Cut people off – this may sound rude, but if people ramble, cut them off. It shows that you are controlling the conversation.

It doesn’t take much more than that to be the AMOG. Just practice with friends and family first. Of course, let them know what you are doing because it takes some finesse for it to start working well.

Step #2: Show your value

Now that people know you are the AMOG, you have to show your value. Make clear what you can bring to the table because people don’t make deals just based on emotions. They also use logic. So, this is where you use both.

Prove your points as quickly and efficiently as possible, while answering any questions the other party may have. It’s also important that during this step, you explain what you are going to do for the other party.

Step #3: Get an amount

Not every business deal is a cash transaction, but there is usually a financial transaction involved. Whether it is figuring out terms of a partnership or getting equity in a company, there is something that tends to be traded.

Once you both have a clear understanding what each party is looking for (e.g, cash or equity for work), you need to ask what your counterpart feels a reasonable deal is.

In most cases, they will tell you they are unsure. When they do this, make sure you don’t throw out an amount as that is the worst thing you can do in a negotiation.

Instead, give them an extreme example, such as:

Well, we know it wouldn’t be a dollar as that amount wouldn’t be worth it to me, and we know it wouldn’t be a million dollars as that amount just isn’t worth it to you. There must be an amount in between that will work for both of us. If you don’t know of the amount, give me a rough range where you think the amount should fall within.

By saying that, you will typically get a range from a potential customer. This will give you a ballpark of where you have to be.

Step #4: Swing for the fences

Whether you want money, equity or whatever else, you have to explain why you want it and why the amount you are asking for is reasonable.

The easiest way to do this is to explain to them that you are going to make them more money. Once you explain it, show them. You can do so by showing them case studies and examples or through walking them through the steps you are going to take with their business to achieve those results.

If you can’t make a pitch based on how much money you are going to make them, talk about how much you are going to save them. Only talk about savings if you can’t make a solid case for making them more money.

Step #5: Ask them what they think

It’s not all about you! You need to get a good understanding of what the other party thinks. You can do so by simply asking:

What do you think?

If you did the previous steps above, your prospects will typically want to work with you. If you didn’t, they will either say no or let you know that they will have to think about it.

Step #6: Cut it short

After you get their feedback and hear their tentative agreement to working with you, don’t keep on rambling by continuing the conversation. Try to wrap things up by transitioning the conversation to a closure.

When wrapping it up, make sure you let them know that you will follow up with them in 3 or 4 days to let them know if you want to work together or not.

Keeping things short shows that you are busy and in high demand. Plus, by saying that you are going to “think about working together”, you’ve just turned the tables psychologically. Now, they will want to work with you.

Step #7: Follow up

In 3 to 4 days, follow up by email and request either a phone call or an in-person meeting. You don’t want to tell people that you want to work together over email as it’s hard to read a person over email. Emotions don’t come across the same way in an email as they do over the phone or in person.

Step #8: Close the deal

Wrap things up and let them know when you will start. Dictate the terms and get the documents signed. They may have questions at this point, but the deal should be good to go.

If they are hesitant to proceed, you need to go back and repeat the process as you probably messed up in step #1, which is the most difficult. If you don’t show that you are the AMOG, you will have a tough time closing the deal for the price you want.


By playing the man and not the odds, you are taking emotions into account when closing. Remember, people don’t just purely make decisions based on logic. Emotions also go into decision-making.

A good example of this is the movie Pursuit of Happiness, in which the main character Chris goes for a job interview at a finance company. Even though he isn’t dressed appropriately for the interview,  he gets the job through the use of emotions.

If you can learn to play the people in the room with the steps above, and not just use logic, you can drastically increase your odds of closing a deal.