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Table Stakes

There’s a wrong metaphor I’m hearing all the time now, where people say “Two million dollars is table stakes for entering that market” or “A PhD is table stakes for applying for that job” and it doesn’t make any sense.

Fun poker fact: “table stakes” is a rule meaning that in the course of a hand, you can only wager as much as was on the table before you when cards were dealt for that hand. The rule is important because otherwise, you could cautiously go all in on a weaker hand with a little money that’s on the table but pull extra money out of your pocket for when you have a great hand and want to make a giant pot. So that metaphor doesn’t make any sense!

An ante is a bet everyone has to make to start a hand for stud and draw type games, and many games have a “minimum buyin” to sit down at the table. Either one of those are fine metaphors . “Two million dollars is the ante for entering that market” sounds better than “A PhD is minimum buy-in for applying for that job” though, so the ante metaphor gets my vote going forward.


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