The Power of Positive Thinking
Are you a poker player who plays the game with a sense of optimism or do you dwell in pessimism? Have you ever tracked how your session actually went during such different states of mind?
There are theories that claim positive thinking and a happy, calm state of mind tend to gravitate towards positive and beneficial results. Now such theories have never been scientifically proven nor has it been debunked either and I am unsure if it is even possible to do so since it deals with intangible matters. And the opposite where one is moody, upset, or angry and dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions is primarily surrounded in negative energy and typically bad things tend to occur as a result.
Consider this as a trivial example: assume you are dealt the glorious hand of pocket Aces and you get it all-in with another player preflop. Before the dealer reveals the five cards to come what thoughts usually come into your mind during this moment? Are you optimistic and feeling confident with thoughts that you are moments away from winning with this hand and possibly about to double up your stack? Or are you pessimistic and dwelling on all of the past bad beats you had with Aces when it got cracked and you actually have a sense of dread with thoughts of hoping it does not happen yet again or even more extremely negative to the point where you actually believe that with my bad luck or the way my session has been deteriorating so far, I believe my Aces will probably lose?
Now poker is a game of variance and it is primarily a skill game with an element of chance. And of course, players do not have any control over the unknown cards that come and we can only control our own actions to bet, raise, call, or fold. But could our thoughts or emotions play any part in results of a future outcome?
Let us put this into perspective. The typical professional sports athlete likely has a strong mental aspect to his game as well as great confidence to go along with his skills and discipline. He or she is most likely extremely competitive with a desire to win at all costs. This state of mind probably constitutes a large component of what successfully propelled him to the highest level in sports and drives him along with his teammates to build a championship winning team. He wants to win (i.e. desire), he believes he can win (i.e. optimism), he has the natural skills that are also polished through extensive practice to win (i.e. ability), and therefore he will win and is a winner (i.e. mental).
Now imagine another professional sports athlete who is pessimistic and continuously dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions. Thoughts such as “I will never be as gifted or talented as that guy”, “How come I never get the breaks or opportunities?”, or “I cannot stand playing for my coach and teammates”. Chances are that such negative energy likely manifests itself onto this person in terms of lack of self confidence, belief that they will never succeed or reach the highest level attainable, and probably has never been a true winner or never been exposed to a winning environment or culture. The result tends to manifest itself into reality where such a negative state of mind ends up with bad situations that are the consequences of such negative energy.
Now let us get back to how this relates to poker. There exists numerous times when maybe you made a play and got picked off holding the worst hand at the time, but in your gut you got that feeling that something good was still going to come out of it. This is difficult to explain but it is evident in such situations where your semi-bluff drawing hand got called and you instinctively felt your flush or straight draw was going to come on the river. Or you made a strong move with a weak Ace and pocket Kings picked off your bluff but you could sense the Ace was going to hit on the flop. Now the similarity between all of these examples is that it deals with positive thinking and making the best out of a challenging situation. I tend to believe that such optimistic thinking helps to create a positive result and that is how you end up winning some of those hands in such spots.
But if your mental train of thought after you made an aggressive bluff with rags and got picked off with a strong hand is “why did I risk it all in such a stupid move” and “why did I not simply wait for pocket Aces or Kings” to pull it off, then you are already dwelling in negativity with low confidence and chances are your hand in such situations typically end up losing almost all of the time to mirror the same low statistical probability of success with such hands. And it is the same situation even when you hold the best hand at the time and up against a drawing hand or an inferior pair. Thoughts such as hoping your hand holds up this time (i.e. It is about time that I am due for a break in my favour) or believing you always get outdrawn or always lose to that 2-outer or 5-outers, dwell in negativity and pessimism and it tends to attract unfavourable results.
So the conclusion is to enter a poker tournament believing that you have the ability to win it all or play a cash game session thinking that you will earn a profit by playing to the best of your ability. Do not have thoughts such as it is a hopeless situation to win a tournament with so many players or hoping you do not get too many bad beats and come out on the short side of the ledger in that cash game.