Dealing with Self Doubt as a Poker Player

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Let’s explore how we can practically deal with getting bluffed, a bluff not working and value-cutting ourselves. Is the possibility to dissolve the resulting self-doubt there?

The Losing Stress Podcast Ep 39 – Dealing with Self Doubt as a Poker Player

[00:03] Hey, guys. It’s Chiggs. It’s the Losing Stress Podcast. In this episode, I want to delve into the topic of self-doubt arising within the mind when you play poker. And as we explore into this, I think it’s useful, first of all, that we define what self-doubt is.

What is Self Doubt?

[00:23] And I think a good definition for self-doubt is any thought or any sequence of thoughts that are related to doubting your ability as a poker player. And if we define it as this, almost straight away, we can start to think of various contextual scenarios that bring up this self-doubt.

[00:47] So, it could be a situation where you get bluffed or a situation where you bet any value cut yourself or a situation where you didn’t quite know what to do or you think you made a mistake because the results of what occurred left the mind in this uncertain state. [01:09] And in fact, as I talk about this now, uncertainty is a better, more general, almost one-word definition for the self-doubt. Because this uncertainty can arise from, say, you perhaps not performing well in a tournament or a game.

[01:09] And in fact, as I talk about this now, uncertainty is a better, more general, almost one-word definition for the self-doubt. Because this uncertainty can arise from, say, you perhaps not performing well in a tournament or a game.

[01:27] There can be a series of thoughts that occur that might go along the lines of, “Oh, I should have quit the game early.” “Oh, I should have read this tournament”, etc., etc. Any of this self-doubt is related to this confusion or uncertainty that is created in the mind.

Self Doubt can be Big or Small in Context

[01:47] And before we actually move on with this, first of all, let’s take note of the fact that this self-doubt or uncertainty can relate to something quite small. Say, one decision in a poker game or can be expanded even further to say, for example, if a Vegas trip isn’t going well, it can be this self-doubt there for whether you should have gone or not.

[02:12] And it can be expanded even to thoughts that are related to you being a poker player and whether you should be a poker player or whether you’ve been a successful poker player. And so, noting this and noting that there can be this content; this changing contextual reason for self-doubt arising.

What is Self Doubt Internally?

[02:34] Let’s see if we can explore what self-doubt is internally, regardless of what the context actually is. And it’s something that we have actually described already in that self-doubt is thought; it is a chain of thoughts, which is of course of a negative content.

[02:54] And as I say this out loud now, I realize that this requires further looking at, not simply just to have this statement and then move on. First of all, can we see that through self-doubt, when we’re in a state of self-doubt, that it is difficult to actually make decisions or see things clearly? Because from this self-doubt, there is this filter built up that effectively blocks us from clear, rational thinking.

[03:31] Effectively, the mind and yourself; you start to see things through this conclusion that is being built up through this self-doubt; that is through this movement of thought in a certain direction.

A Typical Example of Self Doubt in Poker

[03:46] To illustrate this, let’s give an example. Suppose that you are playing in a cash game with a player who we’ll describe as a fish or a whale. And you are both deep and you get into a situation where you’re value betting somewhat thinly for your whole stack and you lose because the other player simply had a better hand in this case.

[04:15] And from that thing, quite naturally, almost immediately from the result, if you’re not taking into action what we talked about the previous Losing Stress Podcast of letting things completely go when the money goes in and then you then see the results.

[04:32] Then there is this reaction that happens automatically in thought, which is self-doubt; which is, “Oh, should I have bet this here?” “Oh, am I good at playing deep-stacked?”

[04:46] Essentially, any of these self-doubting thoughts occur. And if you’re not aware of it, they lead you down a path of creating a groove in the mind, which is this self-doubt that grows into something bigger than it really needs to be or actually is.

Dealing with Mistakes in Poker

[05:06] And this scenario is kind of touching on the topic of making mistakes when playing poker, which again we’ve discussed on the Losing Stress Podcast. So, I do you recommend listening to that because making mistakes in poker is an everyday occurrence and in every session occurrence for all poker players. So, being able to do well within your mind, with your own mind with mistakes is incredibly important.

Self Debt as a Mechanism in the Mind

[05:36] And just going back; essentially, the main points that we’re trying to make here about self-doubt is that it traps the mind in some way. And self-doubt as a mechanism in thought is largely useless.

[05:53] One might say it’s useful to take stock and look at whether you do have an edge in playing poker and self-doubt as this stimulus for this reminder for having to look at it. But surely there is something better than this. Surely there must be something that doesn’t have to deal with this self-doubt which tints the mind. It can cause the mind to not actually think rationally.

[06:20] For instance, going back to the example that we gave, your mind now might start to doubt whether you have an edge over this particular fish or whale, based off this one outcome. And that can be very limiting to the amount of money that you could make because it might cause you to then do something that limits your ability to do well.

[06:49] For example, it might now cause you to buy in shorter because you’re doubting whether you have an edge over this player. Whereas, if you were to look at it outside of a mind that’s in self-doubt or if somebody from an outside perspective was to look at it objectively, then you could see that quite clearly, if you are a professional poker player and you’re playing against a whale, then there will almost certainly be this edge there.

[07:19] And so, self-doubt can cause this irrational thinking.

And ultimately, from everything that we’ve described and almost quite clearly just from observation, self-doubt is clearly not good for you. It’s not good for any poker player. And we haven’t even gone into the obvious thing in that it kills your confidence as a poker player.

Is Removing Self Doubt Possible?

[07:41] And so, now we’re at this point, the next question that quite clearly arises is, “How am I to do away with the self-doubt then? How is that going to be actually possible practically and actionable?”

[07:57] And to really look into this, we have to go back to what self-doubt is. Self-doubt, as we said, is thought. And thought happens when you start to look at it mechanically and reactionary, which means that self-doubt can automatically occur from a stimulus in poker. As we’ve mentioned, the various contextual things that can arise that can lead to self-doubt.

[08:27] Now, the options you now have are to simply accept it as being the case and just go about your business as most people do. Or you can accept the fact that because this reaction is automatic, it has to be a way for the mind to operate and to function without automation and not simply acting automatically.

[08:51] And for this to occur, for this to be the case in any way, surely this has to be something outside of thought, outside of the general movement in the way we typically operate, playing poker and as human beings. There has to be this awareness of thought.

[09:15] And when there is this awareness of thought, there is this ability and opportunity to negate thought. So, negate self-doubt when it does occur or at the moment it does occur.

Self Doubt and Meditation

[09:30] Negation is meditation. What we mean by this is when you notice your mind going down this path of self-doubt, there is this opportunity to have this insight that breaks through and ends the whole thing altogether.

[09:49] But to describe this and go into this is very dependent on the understanding of the listener. So as a person listening to this, it depends on your level of understanding of the mind.

[10:07] But let me see if I can at least provide something practical. When this self-doubt occurs and you spot it, you’re aware of it, you can see it; then you might say, negate the thoughts, but they might crop up again and you might negate them and they might crop up again.

[10:29] The whole feeling of this self-doubt can feel very strong and it can keep cropping up and cropping up and then they can almost be like this wrestling with it. But the whole thing feels so powerful that eventually you become absorbed in it.

[10:45] But so, instead of this, can you simply just look into the self-doubt? Look into the movement of it. Look into the space around it. The space around thought essentially. And then also see that this entity that is looking at the self-doubt is the maker of this self-doubt. It’s still a construction in the mind in the same way that the movement of self-doubt is a construction in the mind.

Practical Meditation for Poker

[11:17] This is something actionable and practical rather than a concept or an idea. And it’s incredibly important not to make it into one because then you enter back into thought and this whole wrestling of this self-doubt in some way.

[11:36] If you want to consider this on a grander, more general level, is that what this action does is it breaks out of the self; the self being this image-maker, this creator of problems, which is the creator of self-doubt.

[11:55] And having gone into all of this, this is a great place to leave and end this podcast because it has again left you with something practical that you can test and put into action.

[12:09] As always, guys, I’ll be on Instagram. I’m @lchiggsl. Take care!