You will often hear sports commentators talk about how confidence helps the best players in the world stay the best or how the lack of confidence was the downfall of a particular player or a team.
When you think about poker, you may not immediately think about confidence being a key element of the game, but I can assure you it is.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that players who lack the confidence and conviction at the table will seldom be true favorites in a game, despite their technical abilities.
The game of poker requires you to make tough decisions time and time again. You will need to be confident of your poker skills and your decisions if you want to make it.
Let us consider some of the ways in which confidence can play a key role in your poker career, as well as those times when having too much confidence can actually cost you.
Staying Aggressive is Key to Success
If there is one thing we have learned about poker over the years, it is that being the aggressor is almost always better than being passive and on the defense.
However, if you are going to constantly be aggressive and apply pressure, you will need to be sure that what you are doing is right!
Most players coming into the game lack confidence, so they will often limp and call bets even when they have premium poker hands instead of playing them aggressively.
The lack of confidence in such scenarios will cost these players money, as they will not be able to extract the most value from their premiums.
What’s more, you can’t really win at poker if you never bluff. To bluff successfully, you will need the confidence that comes from knowing your bluff is a profitable play and the right way to play your hand.
All summed up, the main reason you will need confidence at the table to be a successful player is that good poker requires aggression and constant decision-making based on very limited information.
How Do I Gain Confidence?
If you are just starting in poker, you will notice you often aren't sure of what the right play is. Watching the amateurs, I often notice them make nonsensical plays simply because they don't really know why they should play their hand one way or the other.
In order to be confident in your poker game, you will need to learn what the right way to play is.
This takes time and commitment, as well as admitting you don't really know what you are doing.
If you are new to the game, don't assume you know how to play it, but rather learn from those who have been winning for a long time and soak in the knowledge that can be so easily acquired.
Over time, you will start applying the plays you have learned watching the best poker players, and the results will start going your way. The more often you win, the higher your confidence will be.
However, don’t allow the wins alone to bolster your confidence too much. Be honest with yourself! If you had a set over set three times in a session, this does not mean you crushed your opponents’ souls or did anything too special. You simply got lucky that time!
Losing Sessions are a Part of the Game
Poker is a very tricky game on a mental level because it can seem like the bad players are winning too often and that the great players still often lose.
As a winning poker player, you will still have many losing sessions. Once you have gained the confidence and the skills necessary to win, you must not allow such a bad session to bring you down and affect your confidence.
The trick to remaining truly confident at the poker tables is knowing what the right play is instead of guessing. Once you get to this point, you will no longer be affected by the cards running your opponents' way and inevitable poker coolers.
After you have a losing session, I recommend you take a short break and review your play. If you need to regain your confidence, try meditating or doing mental exercises to get you back in the right mindset.
The Primed Mind app you can download to your phone can actually help with this, as it was created to help its users focus and use their mental capacities to the maximum.
Avoid Getting Cocky!
Confidence is definitely a good thing in poker, and I highly recommend working on it. However, you should also remember to stay humble and not allow yourself to think you are better than everyone else.
There is nothing wrong with knowing your game is on a good level and that you are playing well. However, if you start thinking everyone else is just bad and that you can win every hand, you will quickly learn that this is far from the truth.
Poker is a complex game with many elements, and being confident and aggressive alone will not make you a winner.
You will need to use your confidence and belief in your game to make the right play every time, and the right play will often be folding instead of raising.
I have seen many poker players get too cocky and think they can win every pot as long as they keep betting. These players were quickly beaten by the competent players who would outplay them and the less competent ones who would simply call them with the nuts.
Managing your expectations and your confidence levels is important in poker. Admitting to yourself that sometimes you played a hand less than perfect is as part of being a winning poker player as learning the GTO strategy or memorizing your shove-fold charts!