Is thinking negatively a good thing?

A wise head once told me some years ago that the key to always keeping your psyche on an even keel in poker was to enter each session thinking like a pessimist. At first, I didn’t think that this was very good advice but it was only years later did I really begin to see the real wisdom within these words. It often takes first hand personal experience for previously heard and read wisdom to reveal itself. For example, I used to enter poker sessions in a very positive frame of mind.

You may wonder what is wrong with that because after all, doesn’t a positive mindset improve your poker results? Well, it is true that having a good mindset will improve your poker results but that is only the case if you do in fact have a good mindset. So what exactly do I mean by that? Well for example if you enter a poker game full of confidence then this may not always be a good thing. Years ago I used to do this and my expectation was always sky high. This was because of the amount of work that I had put into my game along with my previous results.

This led to me being very confident and in fact, I had too much confidence for my own good. I simply stopped having the necessary level of patience required and when I could no longer always run over my opponents (which no one can) then this led to frustration and anger. This, in turn, led to weaker and poorer play and suddenly I went from being a shark to a fish. The bottom line, of course, is that my supposed skill advantage simply wasn’t having the chance to exert itself.

So instead of a positive frame of mind helping me then it was actually hindering me immensely. So it is with this in mind that I pass onto you what I have learned down the years! This is that going into a poker game with tremendous confidence isn’t always a good thing. As soon as you incur negative variance or even quite normal short breakeven stretches then this is out of kilter with your confidence level. It is one thing having confidence in your ability but if you perceive that this supposed ability will crush the games every single time then you couldn’t be more wrong.

I used to find that my mindset wasn’t right even when I had mistakenly thought that it was. Thirty minutes or an hour or so into the session and I would often become annoyed by small losses or frustrated by a period where nothing much seemed to be happening. It is only now that I realize that my mindset simply wasn’t right at the beginning of the session. If you don’t expect to win then you are not upset by a few bad beats or outdraws. This then allows you to remain cool, calm and collected during the poker game which is exactly where you need to be.


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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