Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Software Development Lessons Learned From Poker

I recently wrote an article for InfoQ
I wasn't always a software developer. The two years before I joined ThoughtWorks I lived primarily off playing poker. Of course, if you've ever asked me about the tattoo on my forearm, you've already heard the story. If you haven't, feel free to ask me next time we get a drink together.

I've never regretted spending so much time playing poker. I believe it taught me quite a few lessons that apply widely to other topics. In fact the more I develop software the more I'm convinced that the two jobs are incredibly similar.

I approached learning poker the same way I approached learning software development: read as many books as possible. Over the course of 2 years I read every book on poker I could find. I stopped counting at 39. Of course, the same can be true for programming. I have 5 books in front of me right now that are queued up to read next, and I have a large collection of books that I've burned through in the past 3 years with ThoughtWorks.

I consider reading books, blogs, and magazines to be essential for both programming and playing poker, but in both professions reading books isn't good enough. You may be able to keep all the knowledge in your head, but knowing when to apply which rules is the mark of a true professional.

Reading material is great for learning, but it's almost always the context that determines when to apply a certain technique. Since books cannot be specific enough to provide all possible contexts, only experience can give you the ability to be able to make a quick decision that could end up costing you or your employer thousands or even millions of dollars.

...Read the entire article on InfoQ...

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