The #1 Worst Mindset for Poker
There’s a right and a wrong way to approach the mental side of poker, and even top professionals in the game can get it wrong.
There’s one mindset in particular that many top pros struggle with, and it can be extremely detrimental both to your immediate and long-term success in poker. This is known as a fixed mindset.
But, before we go in depth on what a fixed mindset is and what signs might point to you having one, let’s briefly touch on the ideal mindset every player should have – a growth mindset.
A person who has a growth mindset believes that every part of them can be improved.
This is a powerful belief that leads to powerful growth, as the person isn’t limited by circumstance, family, culture, politics or obstacles.
Simply put, they know with a deep internal confidence that just because they are bad at something right now, it doesn’t mean that they can’t master it in the future. A person with a growth mindset believes that they can conquer any and every challenge.
Now let’s break down what a fixed mindset is.
A person with a fixed mindset will have a very hard time succeeding in poker, because they assign immovable, generalized labels for themselves.
Just as you would label a player at the poker tables as a bad player after seeing one or two hands they played, we often use these sweeping generalizations on ourselves.
The truth is, when we label a player “bad” or “tilt-prone” or “calling station” we don’t usually have enough information to make that assumption. It’s a generalization that may be correct, but we can’t know for sure. The problem is that many people apply these same labels to themselves subconsciously without even realizing it.
Labels like “I don’t like to study”, “I can’t ever make a hand”, “my aces never hold up”, or “I can’t focus while playing” are all examples of a subconscious generalization that is often embellished or simply untrue. These labels are sure signs of a fixed mindset; you’re allowing these beliefs to control and limit you.
You can be who you want, when you want. You can become a person who likes to study. You can find focus. You can make hands at the table. And your aces will hold up approximately 80% of the time, just like they should when facing a random hand.
Controlling Your Inner Dialogue
The growth mindset is an internal belief that you can win and achieve any goal you set yourself towards. A fixed mindset is an internal belief that you can’t achieve anything beyond the labels you’ve set for yourself. This inner dialogue is very dangerous, limiting and can be detrimental to your long-term happiness and success.
So, how do you describe yourself to yourself? What narratives do you tell yourself every day?
For example, when you get dealt a bad beat, do you shrug and move on, confident in your abilities to play the next hand well, or does it haunt you for hours or even days?
Do you tell yourself “I knew that ace would come, I’m always unlucky” or do you accept the probabilities of the game and look forward to the next hand?
Unfortunately, our brains by default err on the side of negativity. This is because our brains try to protect us from failure, as hurt caused by failure outweighs the good feelings that winning brings.
Simply put, if we always expect the worst, we can never be let down. This fixed mindset is dangerous because you’ll never achieve anything great without first accepting failure, embracing it and learning from your mistakes.
Enjoy the game of poker and watch your inner dialogue for signs of a fixed mindset. Try to think positively even when having a rough session. Understand that this is all part of the journey, and you will be a better player tomorrow if you learn from the results of today.