Confidence and honesty

Confidence is fundamental in poker, as it is in all endeavors. It’s also not just important for learning the game, but important for playing quality poker (this is discussed in the mental discipline section). A big part of the learning process takes place away from the table. This involves visualization and anticipating events that can occur. Imag‐ ine what would happen if you wanted to learn poker and so you thought about poker away from the table and visualized situations that might happen and how you would react to them, but then you lack the ingredient of confidence? You might be visualizing yourself getting into situations in the future and then playing them poorly. This is not what you want.

How can you be passionate about pursuing poker and becoming the best if you don’t believe you are capable of doing it? It is nonsensical. With confidence that you have the ability to improve – coupled with the desire to improve – you will ask yourself the right questions.

This will happen in specific game situations. Let’s say you got out‐ played in a pot but have confidence in yourself and your capabilities. The logical question for you to ask is “Okay I got outplayed in that hand. Let’s see how I can play in a similar situation in the future to get better.” Note that with confidence you will feel secure and be able to be more honest with yourself and admit when someone out‐ played you and so allow improvement to happen. However, if you do not have the confidence that you can beat this opponent then it makes no sense to try because, quite simply, you don’t believe you can beat him in the future.

Also because of the difficulties discussed above in learning poker it is crucial that you are honest with yourself. Not only will lack of self‐honesty hugely inhibit learning, but it will prevent accurate as‐ sessments of your own skill relative to that of your opponents. This will result in bad game selection. The reason honesty is so important is because, as we have seen, in poker feedback is so tricky to inter‐ pret. Itʹs not like more straightforward pursuits where the results are clear cut and there is no way to hide from them; in poker one has to actively search for the truth.

A key to getting better at poker is brutal self‐honesty. Do not allow yourself time to be satisfied with your play. If you lost a pot, see what you did wrong. And don’t just look for a better line, look for the best line. Don’t just consider whether you made a bad river call, consider whether the turn call was okay, consider whether pre‐flop was okay, consider if your bet size was okay on the flop, consider if you should have bet 10% more. Consider everything.

If you won a pot because you got lucky, that’s really the same as los‐ ing in the long run, so study that hand. If you won a pot because you outplayed the opponent that is not good enough – consider how you could have outplayed him even more. Consider if it just looks like you outplayed the opponent and in actuality you played it badly. Often players don’t even know what hands to study because they think they played well when they actually played badly.

For this reason you should study a lot more hands than you think you should. A player often doesn’t realize when they are making bad plays, or they simply wouldn’t make them. Even if you are on the biggest upswing of your life, you still need to study a lot of hands just as you would if the reverse were true. It pays to be tough on yourself and find as many mistakes in your play as you can. You’ll be the one to benefit in the long run. The best plan is criticism of your own play, exposing the mistakes you make and then fixing them. Down the line this will pay off when you have improved by much more than everyone else because they have been complacent.

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