domingo, 22 de junho de 2008

How to Win at Poker—and at Business

In "BusinessWeek":

The skills that bring you success while playing cards can also help you know when to fold 'em or hold 'em at the negotiating table.

Deepak Thadani learned how to play poker during a trip to Atlantic City in 2004, a few years after he launched a high-end network security company in Woodside, N.Y. He soon discovered that many of his clients—CEOs and CFOs of large New York companies—were also aspiring card sharps. So he organized a monthly game. "Poker's like the new golf," says Thadani. "People get together at the poker table, they play, and they build relationships."

He picked up on the intricacies of the game quickly. In 2006 his prize for winning a $600 buy-in tournament was a free seat at the $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas. He didn't get very far in that, the mother of all poker tournaments. But playing alongside the seasoned pros helped Thadani discover that people who are successful in poker have a lot in common with people who are successful in business. "It's not the hands that you're dealt; it's the way you play them that separates the regulars from the pros," he says. "Just like in business."

Poker professionals, too, can't help but notice the overlap. In the past decade, as poker has been inundated with amateurs who learned to play from televised tournaments and online gambling sites, many of the most successful no-names have had backgrounds in business. The list of recent World Series of Poker main event champions includes a TV producer, a patent attorney, an accountant, an investment banker, and a carpet manufacturer.

People Skills

"The most successful people in the business world, what they do best is manage people, or understand people, or know how to relate and deal with people. And that's what poker is all about—people," says Tom McEvoy, a veteran player who won the main event in 1983 not long after giving up his first aspiration, accounting, for a career in poker.

Acting persuasively, reading opponents' motives, and handling the subtleties of a monetary transaction are skills the poker greats work tirelessly to hone. These same skills are essential for negotiating a business deal.

In essence, each hand you are dealt in poker is like a product whose value you are trying sell to the rest of the table by placing bets, raising them, and calling other players' bets. Your hand frequently won't be the most valuable on the table. But by piecing together the limited information you have about your opponents and their hands—one might look nervous, one might be talking a lot, one might have a history of folding—you may be able to win with a well-timed and persuasive bluff.

Of course, winning card players aren't always bluffing. Sometimes they have the best hand possible—"the nuts," in poker lingo—and have to decide exactly how much they can bet without scaring off other players. "Figuring out how best to price things to give yourself maximum value is something that's exactly what you do in a poker hand, and it's exactly what you do when you're trying to sell something in business," says poker pro Daniel Negreanu. "If I feel like I've made an offer, and I feel like I can get more on it, I'll continue to push until I feel [the other guy] is at his breaking point."

Incomplete Information

When it's time to bluff, or to call an opponent on their bluff, it's important to know who you're dealing with. Every morsel of information you can pick up—their posture, how they move their eyes, where they put their hands, what they say or don't say—can be a clue to what kind of poker hand they have. "When I'm sitting at the table even for 30 minutes with people I don't know, I can tell a lot about them," says poker pro Chad Brown. "Poker is about incomplete information, so you take that incomplete information and you have to make an analysis of how you want to play against each of those players."

But in theory at least, there's one big difference: In a business deal, often everyone goes home a winner, having gotten at least part of what he or she wanted; in poker, there's one winner, and the potential to lose big is great.

Poker pro Barry Greenstein knows this difference first-hand. Greenstein was one of the first software designers at Symantec (SYMC) when it was founded in the early 1980s, and he played a role in negotiating some 20 of the company's acquisitions through the early '90s—including that of Norton Utilities, Symantec's biggest coup. The pitch to Norton, he remembers, was win-win: "'If you come along with us, we're so much better at sales and marketing that you will sell more of your product and make more money that way.' For us, we needed to make these acquisitions because when you go public, investors want to see you have a diverse product line."

By contrast, when he's playing poker, says Greenstein, "generally I'm negotiating, so it's good for me and bad for the other guy."

See's slide show for negotiating lessons from poker pros.

domingo, 8 de junho de 2008

Oil Prices ... Jump Past $138

In "":

The rise in oil prices turned into a stampede on Friday with futures jumping a staggering $11 a barrel to set a record above $138 a barrel. The unprecedented surge came as the dollar fell sharply against the euro and a senior Israeli politician once again raised the possibility of an attack against Iran.


Even as uncertainties abound about the fundamentals of the energy market, geopolitical tensions in the Middle East regained center stage after Israel’s transportation minister and a deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, said Friday that an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites looked “unavoidable” if Iran did not abandon its nuclear program.

Iran is the second-largest oil producer within the OPEC cartel and exports nearly two million barrels a day. Because the world has few supplies to spare, any interruptions in Iran’s exports could push prices to higher levels. The world currently has about three million barrels a day of spare capacity, and consumes 86 million barrels a day of oil.


One view gaining ground is that the commodity market is caught in a speculative bubble akin to the recent housing bubble or the technology bubble of the late 1990s. That theory was raised by politicians in Washington and by OPEC producers, who blame speculators for the staggering oil rally. Speaking before Congress recently, George Soros, a prominent hedge fund investor, said the current oil markets presented some characteristics of a bubble.

“I find commodity index buying eerily reminiscent of a similar craze for portfolio insurance, which led to the stock market crash of 1987,” Mr. Soros said this week. But he cautioned that an oil market crash was not imminent. “The danger currently comes from the other direction. The rise in oil prices aggravates the prospects for a recession.”

But many analysts say that fundamentals, not speculation, are driving prices.

“I don’t know how else to say it, this is not a bubble,” Jan Stuart, global oil economist at UBS, said. “I think this is real. There is a whole bunch of commercial buyers out there who are spooked and are buying. You are an airline, right now, you’re scared. I don’t see who would buy at these prices unless they need to.”

Jeffrey Harris, the chief economist at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, who was speaking before a Senate committee last month, said he saw no evidence of a speculative bubble in commodities. Instead, Mr. Harris pointed to a confluence of trends that has contributed to the oil price rally, including a weak dollar, strong energy demand from emerging economies, and political tensions in oil-producing countries.

“Simply put, the economic data shows that overall commodity price levels, including agricultural commodity and energy futures prices, are being driven by powerful fundamental economic forces and the laws of supply and demand,” Mr. Harris said. “Together these fundamental economic factors have formed a ‘perfect storm’ that is causing significant upward pressures on futures prices across the board.”



terça-feira, 3 de junho de 2008

Como são formados os preços dos combustíveis

In "Jornal de Negócios":

A Autoridade da Concorrência (AdC) revelou como são compostos os preços dos combustíveis no mercado nacional. A maior fatia corresponde a impostos, como já foi amplamente noticiado. É a distribuição e os vendedores que ficam com a menor fatia.

No primeiro quadrimestre de 2008 a média do preço da gasolina fixou-se nos 1,393 euros. Deste total, quase 60% foi directo aos cobres do Estado (0,825 euros). As refinarias receberam dos operadores 31,4% do valor total, ou seja, 0,438 euros.

Os vendedores representam 7,97% do preço, ou seja, 0,111 euros e os distribuidores correspondem a 1,44% do valor total da gasolina (ver quadro em baixo), segundo o relatório da AdC.

No caso do gasóleo, o valor médio dos quatro trimestres ascendeu a 1,229 euros com os impostos a corresponder a 46,9% do total (0,577 euros).

Os operadores pagaram 42,2% às refinarias e a distribuição correspondeu 1,5% do preço. Os vendedores pesam 9,3% no peso final do gasóleo.

Gasolina 95 octanas*
ISP 0,583 41,85% 0,364 29,6%
IVA 0,242 17,37% 0,213 17,3%
Venda a retalho 0,111 7,97% 0,114 9,3%
Distribuição 0,02 1,44% 0,019 1,5%
Refinarias 0,438 31,4% 0,519 42,2%
Total 1,393 100% 1,229 100%
* preços médios de venda nos primeiros quatro meses do ano
Fonte: Autoridade da Concorrência

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