If we look at the common representation of the optimal mindset in poker media we often get this unsustainable, unrealistic image of someone who's not driven by positive or negative emotion and basically acts like a GTO playing robot. In reality, this approach is unsustainable or simply unattainable.
Human beings are extremely emotional creatures and there's really no way around that. Even if the ability to flip the emotional "off-switch" while playing poker would've been extremely beneficial, it's best to ignore similar fantasies and work the way around our limitations. One of the more effective ways of doing so is promoting the skill of confidence.
Confidence and Success
There's a surprisingly small amount of research about the effects that confidence has on one's success but most of the studies find a strong correlation between the subjects confidence level and their average income. This should be especially interesting for poker players. Poker is a very tough way to make an easy living. The existence of rake makes it so only around 10% of player can enjoy their winning in the long run.
While you can be an average lawyer, medical doctor, chef or bricklayer and still bring home the paycheck, only elite poker players at every respective level have the same privilege. Because of that, poker enthusiast should do everything in their power to get on the right side of the normal distribution curve as far as success is concerned and the skill of confidence seems to be an important piece to this puzzle.
According to the studies conducted by the psychologist Dr. Richard Petty and his colleagues, confidence acts like an emotional amplifier that drives people into action. A simple act of saying some positive things about yourself while nodding your head or assuming a power pose can dramatically affect your beliefs. What's interesting to point out is the fact that confident negative assertions seem to have more power than the positive ones.
Case Study - Phil Hellmuth Jr.
Now that we know how powerful confidence can be let's talk about a poker player who's been using it for the last couple of decades. Phil Hellmuth has to be one of the more hated poker players out there, but he's also very successful and mastering the skill of confidence is one of the major factors that help him remain relevant for so many years. Many people claim that Phil's skill level wouldn't be sufficient to consistently beat an NL200 online cash game and yet the guy has 14 WSOP bracelets to his name.
His use of confidence becomes apparent if we study some of his quotes. "If there was no luck involved, I'd win every time", "I can dodge bullets" combined with his numerous rants about the bad plays of his opponents and unfair deals, clearly show us that Phil is a master at utilizing the power of confident negative beliefs. Hellmuth is convinced of his greatness and considers luck his only adversary. He never loses to a better opponent, he losses because of the luck of the draw.
How to Become a Confident Poker Player?
Do you have to do your best impression of Phil Hellmuth in order to become a successful poker player? Of course not. Everyone is different and there are many factors that can affect your confidence levels. Some of them, like your genetics, you can't really control but you can affect most of the other ones.
Going back to the research by Dr. Richard Petty mentioned above something as simple as making sure you're sitting up straight during your poker session can make a real difference. Consider adding a short affirmation or mantra coupled with a positive physical signal like nodding your head, to your warm up poker session. This might look silly on the surface, as it sounds suspiciously similar to something you might find in a pop-psychology book or the advice you might hear from a self-proclaimed guru, but it's actually a technique used in the studies conducted at the Ohio State University.
Make sure that you have a good support structure. Trying to go pro without the blessing of your parents or significant other can really decrease your confidence. Conversely, spending time with a group of like-minded players trying to move up the stakes can be extremely beneficial. If you like to voice your reasoning out loud during poker sessions make an effort to use positive, confident wording.