Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room



by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Feb 17, 2016


Gavin GriffinI was recently having a discussion with one of my students about confidence. We had gone through some of his hands and talked about the decisions he made and it was a little frustrating for us because he couldn’t justify some of his actions and neither could I. Some of them were situations we had discussed in the past, some were relatively new, but even those should have tracked well with all of the things we had been discussing over the previous sessions. Finally, we figured out that it boiled down to one major thing that was missing from his game: Confidence.

Confidence can really make a difference in your game on a day to day, session to session, or hand to hand basis. If you’re feeling confident, you trust your reads, believe in the thought process you have applied, and follow through on them without fear.

Just a couple weeks ago, I was playing in a $5-$5 game at my local casino. I haven’t been playing the game as much lately for several reasons. First of all, it has been a much tougher game lately than it used to be. The players who used to be big contributors to the game have either stopped playing it in order to play lower or are getting better. Secondly, the best game in the room over the last few months is a $20-$40 HORSE game that is fun and engaging. I have really been enjoying playing that game and I presume I’ll be playing mostly that game over the course of this year as long as it keeps running.

The fact that I haven’t been playing no-limit that often lately is strike number one against my confidence when playing the game. It felt a little awkward getting back into playing it and that wasn’t helped by the fact that I started off on a losing foot this session with some bad runouts and a good bluff that was picked off by a player making a pair on the river that was one of the only cards I would bluff at and he would call. Then, a guy who had played every hand limped from under the gun at a six-handed table. He had been playing lots of hands and getting to showdown with a fair number of them. I made it $25 on the button off of a stack of $700 with 8Spade Suit 7Spade Suit. He had about $600. The big blind called as well, and we went to a flop of KDiamond Suit 5Heart Suit 3Spade Suit. They both checked to me, and I bet $35. This is a good flop for my range and not so great for theirs. In addition, I have a backdoor straight draw and flush draw as well as two overcards to the middle card on board for a full six outs if an opponent has a 5. The big blind folded and the limper called.

The turn was the 10Heart Suit and he checked again. This is a good card for me to continue bluffing because he can probably find some more hands to call with like a backdoor flush draw that he just picked up or Q-J. It’s also another overcard to the 5 if he has it. I bet $85 into $145 and he called. I probably should have bet more here in order to set up a bigger river bet, but I like betting as I’d do this with a king, A-A, 10-10, 5-5, 3-3, AHeart Suit QHeart Suit, and AHeart Suit JHeart Suit. I need some more bluffing combinations and this is the exact bottom of my range in this instance, so it works perfectly to bluff and he called.

The river was the 2Diamond Suit and my opponent checked once more. If I was playing with total confidence, I certainly would have bet here, expecting him to call with almost every king, but fold the rest. He certainly has more combinations of kings in his hand than he has missed draws, but not by much, so betting two-thirds of the pot would have been a good choice. Instead, I convinced myself he couldn’t have any draws and checked behind. He showed down Q-J and scooped the pot. I managed to make a pretty good recovery from this hand due to my poor image, but it was a nice spot to pick up a good-sized pot with a bluff, which is usually good for raising my confidence even more.

Confidence at the poker table builds on itself. The more you win, the more confident you are, usually leading to you to playing better, thus making you more confident and so on and so forth. The opposite is also true. If you are losing, most tend to be less confident, leading to more losing behavior which leads to being less confident, and so on. If, instead of tying your confidence to your results, you tie it to your actions, you’ll have fewer changes in your confidence and they’ll be shorter in duration as well. Feel more confident when you’re making good decisions and executing well instead of when you’re winning, and you’ll be more analytical of those decisions, thus reinforcing your confidence and helping you improve in a material way. Making better decisions has the bonus effect of being a more profitable player, which is always a good thing, confident or not. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG