We're still running the DC Community Concepts idea over in the Micro NL forum (found here). I definitely recommend you mosey on over there for some great stuff written by you, the community. The latest article was written by yours truly and I thought I'd post it here as well just in case you don't visit that particular forum on the regular.
Link to the article
Some of you may have read this before as I originally wrote it over a year ago, but I've since made some tweaks and think it's a bit better now. Hope you enjoy
The Power of Self-Confidence
Middle school was an interesting time. They say that these are the years when you develop your identity and learn who you really are (as much as a 12 year old can). I’m not here to refute that, but I can say that I personally did not find out who I was, rather I found out who everyone else was.
It’s August, right before school starts. I go with my dad to pick out some school clothes for the year. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to look cool. I wanted No Fear shirts, Nike shoes, and Nike socks. Yea, that’s right, name brand socks. I don’t play. I desperately wanted to mold myself into the ever-present junior high myth that a 7th grader can actually “look cool.” I got the clothes I wanted, thought I looked cool, and ultimately, all that mattered was no one made fun of me.
Middle school kids can quite possibly be the meanest group of individuals since….well, since elementary school kids. Maybe not the best analogy, but you get my point. Kids are mean. So anyway, you pretty much spend “the formative years” of 6th-8th grade trying to avoid any sort of adolescent mob-mentality stoning. If you survive, you make it to high school, and for me at least, it gets a little easier. You’ve made friends; you know which group you think you belong in, and the frantic identity search starts to mellow out. By the time you are a senior, you’re pretty much the man (not the "holding me down" type man, the BMOC type man). I know I was. Knowing you’re the oldest grade in school, possibly with a car, makes you the precedent setter. It’s a caterpillar-like transformation from scared peon, adapting to whatever trend is popular, to badass butterfly who bucks the trend if he so chooses. Because screw underclassmen.
If you’re lucky enough to go to college, as I was fortunate enough to do, a weird thing happens. That overconfidence gets shaken a bit as you enter a big bad university. You’re back trying to fit in again. Something is different this time though. What’s this? People don’t give a crap about how you look? Oh sweet, sweet apathy. Long gone are the days of fitting in based on your sweet Adidas socks. A new day has risen. A day where a person is judged on the content of his character, not the color of his Jordans. At least, this was my experience in college. I was amazed at how I could be myself and no one cared. You start wearing random old t-shirts, shaving half of your face, and oversleeping for your Discrete Math class which started at 2pm. The point being that no one cares anymore about how you look. You are freed from grade school fashion shackles. And that’s only the beginning.
Once I stopped caring about how I looked, I began only caring about being me. It was a slow process, but I eventually realized that I was, in fact, the man. That sounds arrogant, and I am joking, but until you feel like you deserve better things in my life, you’ll always struggle with self-esteem issues. Restricting yourself out of the fear of another’s opinion gives other people power over you and your actions. The minute you release these shackles, you’ll feel empowered. The first few times are the toughest, but trust me, it gets easier. Just like in poker, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. With self-confidence however, you can put yourself out there and not risk anything. Does it get any better than zero risk and self-fulfillment as the reward? You may do something stupid, but you know what? Who cares? This attitude towards life has allowed me to stand up for what’s right, live my life by principle – not by popular opinion, and has instilled in me a vast amount of self-confidence.
When I first started learning poker, I went through the natural progression of figuring out the rules, playing tight, learning how to bluff, bluffing way too much, reeling it back in, and so on. Without my self-confidence, I doubt my progression would have happened as quickly as it did. It allowed me to try new strategies without the fear of embarrassment. I would argue that self-confidence is one of the most important qualities to have when learning poker because poker is unlike anything else. Variance will smack you down and downswings will crush you. It is inevitable. If, however, you believe in yourself and your abilities, you will weather the storm and be able to handle the natural swings of poker.
Take, for example, a new player who has just discovered the wonderful world of poker after watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN. He knows that Aces are good, and he's pretty sure that a flush beats a straight. He's your typical newbie who sees how much fun can be had and how much money can be won by playing poker. Now let's say that John and George both recently discovered poker. Let's break down the difference between John and George. John came from a family who didn't support him much, he never had much success with the ladies, and he never really found his place among his peers growing up. Because of this, John's self-confidence left a lot to be desired. On the other hand, George had a great family who showed up at every one of his football and baseball games to support him, and he was lucky enough to find a beautiful girl who liked him. His self-confidence is fairly high due to his success in life thus far.
As you can you see, I've divulged no information whatsoever about John or George's history with card games, mathematical abilities, or their work ethic. Based on the information given, if John and George's desire to learn poker were equal, which do you think would be more likely to succeed?
I would put my money on George every time. Why you ask? Simply by assessing their confidence level, I can likely predict that George will learn the game of poker quicker and more thoroughly, at least in the short run. Even if John was more mathematically-inclined, I would argue that George would find more success in the short term. John's last name could be Pascal and George's last name could be Bush - ok, maybe not Bush, let's go with Jetson - and I would still argue that George has an edge in learning the poker fundamentals quicker.
George will have the confidence to ask more questions, play more hands, and be more aggressive. They both discover Deuces Cracked, and George immediately jumps in - posting hands, responding to threads, and getting hands-on experience in the forums. John, however, lurks in the threads and tries his best to learn what he can without having to put his thoughts on a particular hand out there for all to see, fearing a backlash from more experienced players. It will be more likely for George to bluff, check-raise, 3-bet light, and perform all of the advanced aggressive maneuvers that a winning player has in his arsenal way before John because John will be stuck playing a nitty style, afraid of doing anything crazy. I'm not saying that George will understand the Yeti Theorem before John, but his confidence will allow him to learn the fundamentals quicker, gain more experience, and be more aggressive at the table. And we all know that aggressive poker is winning poker.
So get out there. Live life. Let others cower in the darkness while you shine brighter, failing gleefully along the way. Do you want to 3bet 72o? Do it. Learn from it. Do you want to fold KK? Do it. Learn from it. Do you want to check/raise an opponent who clearly has the nut flush on a paired board in hopes that he folds? Do it. Learn from it. Try everything. Create your own style. Learn from others, but also learn from yourself. THINK. Justify your decisions. Hold yourself accountable. Don't brush everything off as a cooler or "standard." Examine all of the spots. Find edges no one else finds. Do things no one else does.
"The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed." ~Lloyd Jones
Possessing self-confidence will help all facets of your game and set yourself up for success. You won’t care about asking dumb questions while learning a new game, so you learn quicker than those hindered by the opinion’s of others. You’re willing to try new strategies, new bluffs, new crazy lines, and you don’t mind having to show your hand. You’ll make a “sick call” with 9 high, only to lose to Q high (an actual hand against a friend of mine). Sure, you may look stupid calling with 9 high, but deep down you actually look stronger because you are willing to make such a play. Who do you fear more at the table – a guy who folds everything but the strongest of hands, or someone willing to look stupid in order to win your chips? This attitude towards poker, and life, is definitely +EV in the long run.
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." ~Michael Jordan