The psychology of poker. False Beliefs, Lost Skills and Losses

Previous part of Mental Game of Poker: No-Loss Tilt, Competitiveness, Losing Money

5.4.3 Thinking you can win every hand

While it is logically difficult to admit that you believe you can win every hand or every session, there are many players who do. It sounds illogical because they understand that variation would never allow that to happen. Knowing that it is illogical doesn't stop such players from believing that one day they will become so good that they will never lose.

Of course, poker does its best to encourage such thinking. When it's going well, the game seems to be an ATM that keeps on giving money. It really starts to look like you are winning every hand you are dealt. It feels really good when you win it all and especially when it goes on for a long time. Big wins lead to dreams about how good it would be if you never lost. People who dream of winning the lottery think the same way, they think about what they would do with the money and how it would change their lives.

Of course, this is not a lottery, it is poker. While it may seem that a few recent WSOP Main Event winners have won poker's version of the lottery, if everyone was such a good player, poker would not be profitable. The fact that you can't win every hand is the main reason why you can have an edge in this game with so many inferior players ready to play with you. Poker is not an ATM, it's more like a slot machine ready to pay out for your edge (minus the amount paid rake). Earning from your advantage means that you'll have to pay back much of the money you win - sometimes in very nasty ways.

If periods of success make you think that poker is an easy way to win money, then you will hate to lose because losing will destroy your dream. The solution to this problem involves two-way improvement - how you deal with both winning and losing. First, you have to get rid of the illusion of easy money. Also, use the following techniques to eliminate the false belief that you can win every hand:

  • Preparation: Strengthen your concentration on making good decisions, following the action at the table and everything else needed for a good game. Remember why losing is an important part of poker and why the money you save by making the right fold is just as important as the money you win. Although it may seem like repetition, a well-solved problem is one that you don't have to go back to and that doesn't need any more attention. It's a long journey to that point.
  • Implementation: if losing one hand causes even the slightest frustration, then use insertion logic after each loss. This will prevent emotions from building up and will delay bridging. Since being happy is also part of the problem, use the embedding logic also when emotions become too positive.


  • Assessment: Whether the problem is caused by winning or losing, use the 5-step protocol to dismantle the bad and create the right logic.
  • Forget easy money: Prove to yourself why you don't want this wish to come true. And every time you think about it, you'd better direct your thoughts and actions to something that is actually achievable.

5.4.4 Lost skills

Players often mistakenly assume that losing also means losing skills. When tiltindami when they lose, they start to think they are worthless. But this is just an illusion of the mind. Skills learned to the level of unconscious competence belong to you and will never go away - even tiltinant.

This illusion is due to three reasons:

  1. Equating money with skills. If you lose money, and money equals skill, then you immediately become a bad player. You also don't like to lose, because when other players win, you think that they might be better than you. If it is possible for your skills to suddenly disappear, then it is possible for your opponents' skills to suddenly appear.
  2. Unconscious competence skills are unconscious. You don't have to think about them and for that reason they are self-evident.
  3. Skills that are still in the learning process do not appear when tiltinate and they may seem to have disappeared, perhaps forever, along with your entire game.

Here's how you can break this illusion:

  1. Improve your ability to recognise variation, your ability and your opponent's ability. If you lose, you will be able to determine the true quality of your game and you won't immediately think you are a bad player. Moreover, if it turns out that you played well, even though you were unlucky, that knowledge will make you feel good.
  2. Know which game skills have been trained to the level of unconscious competence. Even if these are just the basics, knowing them proves that skills can't just disappear, even if tiltinant.

5.4.5 When defeat becomes personal

Competing against other players, especially in HU, makes winning a personal challenge, with much more at stake than just money. Losing means that your opponent is better than you and may feel superior, even if they are just lucky. Bridge can be aroused by the mere thought that someone else might think they are better than you. And if it's against a player with whom you have a history of playing, it Bridge is even higher.

Although your actions will not necessarily turn into revenge, the strategies outlined in the "revenge Bridge" section are related, so will help you solve this problem of not wanting to lose Bridge version.

5.4.6 Losing hurts more than winning makes you feel good

For many players, the pain of losing is stronger than the joy of winning. This means that they compete not only to win, but also to avoid the negative feelings that come with defeat. People who love competition can become cruel to themselves when they lose. Self-criticism manifests itself in many ways, asking rhetorical questions such as "Why am I so useless?" or "How can I become good if I can't beat this fool?". However self-criticism manifests itself, it contributes to the other factors described in this chapter and makes defeat painful. In fact, it becomes so painful that the joy of winning is never equalled. Winning becomes merely an escape from the misery of defeat.

Players who think that winning is just an escape from losing are the same ones who think that winning is the answer to the pain of losing ("It'll be all right if I just win everything"). Winning allows you to temporarily escape the agony of losing, but since losing is inevitable in poker, it is better to deal with the problem on the merits rather than just temporarily fooling yourself.

The real problem is that there are more reasons to feel bad about losing than there are to feel good about winning. So you wait for a defeat to make you feel worse, and when it comes you start bridge even more. This false thinking will disappear when you remove the unnecessary logic and flawed reasons that make you think that defeat is painful. The first step in solving this problem is to realise that the title of the topic is just an observation and not a law of human nature. It is not a constant. To improve, use the methods described in this part of the book to find out why losing hurts more than winning brings joy.

Where is the best place to play poker?