Thursday, March 8, 2007

Ego has no place in poker

To start off this post, I have to 'fess up to something.

I'm nothing like you probably think I am.

I have a PhD in clinical psychology- from a very highly regarded program. And then I did my postgraduate training at another highly regarded institution. So I tend to see things through a psychological lens that can be both illuminating and troubling.

I have self-esteem issues.

This is easier for me to admit than you might think, because my (literally) thousands of hours of clinical training doing psychotherapy has shown me that most people have self-esteem issues.

There are those people who lack confidence and therefore "play small" (i.e., not taking risks, not performing up to their potential).

There are those people who strut around like they own everything. Deep down inside (perhaps so deep that even the person doesn't know), they don't think much more of themselves than the people who intentionally play small. They're expending all of their energy into trying to convince everyone (and themselves) that they actually are worth something.

My mother used to criticize herself, and our family, because she thought people would like us better if she did. Even as a kid, I could see that it didn't work.

I thought I'd worked through those issues.

I haven't.

I see it in my poker game.

I don't bet as aggressively as I should. I got a pair of aces cracked tonight because I didn't bet aggressively enough on the flop, which allowed the other player to keep calling me until he drew a straight.

I let players who try to hassle me and call me a "bluffer" bother me and affect my play. (I mean, really, why the hell should I care what they say? It does interfere with my play, though.)

Then I recklessly go all-in when, if I stopped to look carefully enough, I'd see that I certainly don't have the nuts.

On one hand, I truly believe that I have the intellectual ability, psychological savvy, and desire to succeed at poker. Yet my own insecurities are holding me back.

On the first hand tonight, I went all-in with a pair of kings after having my pot-sized bet called by two players. I won to take a substantial lead.

Then I essentially gave my chips back by not betting aggressively on the next hands- getting involved but not betting enough to truly intimidate other players.

Why, you ask?

Because I was too scared to bully that table. I played small. Then I slide in the other direction by playing recklessly. My intellect checks right out.

But one thing I'm not is a quitter. I just need to keep my ego in check.

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