Home > Becoming better > What to do when your confidence drops

What to do when your confidence drops

Playing poker can be stressful, and for more than one reason:

1) you get hit by a wall of bad beats during a session,
2) you believe some of the players at the table are playing better than you and start feeling uncomfortable,
3) you’ve been on a downswing for a few weeks now. You are down 20 buy-ins and just don’t know what to do anymore,
4) your friend, who started playing poker the same day you did, is already crushing the NL $0.25/$.50 tables, while you are stuck playing $0.05/$0.10.

The list goes on.

Whatever the reason for your confidence drop,  here are a few notes and tips to help you regain your feeling of control.


Understand that confidence is actually a direct result of understanding. When we don’t understand something and are unaware of how it works, we tend to stop believing in ourselves, thinking that we cannot handle the situation. This is exactly what happens when you start doubting yourself as a result of having bad beats or a downswing. If this ever happens to you, stop playing and go read up on variance, and read up well. Start with some basics regarding poker odds and then move to more advanced stuff. Research the topic of variance on the twoplustwo forums. You may be thinking that you know what variance is, but trust me — 90% of the people who think that don’t really understand it. Read what other people have to say about it, read what others have experienced, and you’ll soon find yourself immunized to it.  At least to a large extent.


Yes, I’m repeating myself. I’ve probably mentioned bankroll management in every article so far. It just goes to show you the importance of the subject, and frankly, that is exactly what I’m trying to do. If you are constantly worried about losing a buy-in as a result of poor bankroll management, you will start to doubt your decisions quickly, talking yourself out of calls to avoid losing money, and soon your confidence will start diminishing. There is nothing wrong about playing massively overstacked if it helps; I know people who never move up in stakes before having at least 100 (one hundred) buy-ins for the new stakes. The amount of confidence this gives a player is enormous.


This is something you don’t hear people talk about often. We live in a society where the most important thing is to excel, to constantly do better and better. No one cares if you like what you are doing, as long as you are good at it. The fact is if you don’t like poker, sooner or later the game will take its toll on you. And unless you make tons of money (most players never do), it will certainly turn out not to be worth it in the end.

Make sure you are not playing just for the money. This might not be something you wanted to hear, but there you have it: you will almost certainly fail at poker if you don’t like the game. You will not be willing to put into it the time necessary to learn the game properly if you don’ like the game.

And this directly influences confidence. If you play just for the money, you are putting yourself under great pressure. You want to be “done with it” as quickly as possible, you want the money to start flowing in quickly. This will lead to tons of irrational decisions, and the losses will hinder your confidence, prompting you to lose even more.


This is in a way linked to bankroll management, but I decided to separate the two. If your livelihood depends on poker, you must be absolutely certain that you are capable of supporting yourself for at least 12 months even if you were to stop playing poker completely. Ideally you should have a backup fund outside of poker; money that you never use to play and just sits there, waiting for that dark hour to come. If you haven’t saved up that much money yet, do not quit your day job to become a professional poker player. Otherwise you will start freaking out every time your bankroll is in the smallest danger, and your confidence will once again dwindle as a result.


Don’t be afraid to do that if things get nasty. Whenever moving up the stakes you should plan ahead on when to move back down. Having a predetermined plan like this will help you play with more ease and will go a far way towards increasing your confidence.


You have to be very careful about getting overconfident, which can be just as bad (sometimes worse) as losing your confidence. Stick to proper bankroll management (here it is again), always think before making a decision at the tables, never assume that you are better than anyone; poker is more about becoming better than yourself. So focus on your decisions and analysis of the hands, and let the results speak for themselves. Play at least half a million hands before declaring yourself a guru in your own head.

Hope this helps, and feel free to ask questions if you have any.

Good luck.

Categories: Becoming better
  1. January 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    This is really good stuff and I love the bit about loving the game. So often we forget that we play Poker because we actually enjoy the game. How often do people fall into the trap of making a living from something they hate doing? I am sure there must be a direct correlation between your enjoyment of the game and success. We all like to win, beat the competition, get better at the game and have fun. Success begets success so I am sure this is a big factor in confidence.

    Of course there are always days when we fall out of love with the game but like any good marriage, if you can stick at it through thick and thin then the rewards are enormous.

    Great post. Thanks


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