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6 Ways Poker Can Help Build Your Confidence

6 Ways Poker Can Help Build Your Confidence

Poker today is a global phenomenon and the figures are rising all the time. According to research commissioned by the non-profit PPA (Poker Players Alliance) around 70 million Americans play poker live and/or online – that’s more than 20% of the population. Another 100 million are thought to play the game worldwide.

Why then, is poker so popular? There must be more to poker’s attraction than its showbiz allure. On one thing, enthusiasts of all levels tend to agree: poker can build self-confidence, which might be the single most transferable skill of them all… Here then, are some suggestions as to why this might be so:

Conquer Maths Anxiety!

Maths anxiety, first identified in the 1950s, is the chronic fear of maths. If the prospect of doing maths brings you out in a cold sweat, the chances are that you too suffer from maths anxiety.

Maths anxiety is a fear of numbers. It’s surprisingly common – in the UK for instance, it affects some 16 million people; about a quarter of the population. It’s also surprisingly well-studied psychological condition, with research indicating that the panic induced by having to do math is so intense for some people that sometimes it even activates your brain’s “pain matrix.”

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For sufferers, grappling with a maths problem releases stress hormones associated with the fight/flight reflex you could expect from confronting, say, a hungry tiger. Imagine the selfsame response, but provoked by something as banal as having to measure a carpet or decode a phone bill. Relax though, for help may be at hand.

As with any skill, mathematics gets easier, the more of it you do. The trick is to practise without at any point thinking of it as doing maths. And that’s where a game like poker comes in. The very mechanics of the game, the calculation of ever-shifting odds, is maths in motion. It may not feel like it, but during the course of play, your brain is making hundreds of percentage-based computations. At the green felt table, your brain can crunch all those numbers naturally and fearlessly, because it thinks it’s just playing a game.

Know The Measure Of Your Hand

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    Confidence is, in many ways, tied to competence. As you amass knowledge in a subject, confidence in your abilities grows proportionately. When you first begin to play poker, you’ll be either timid or reckless. But you will certainly not be good. You’ll make beginner’s mistakes. As you get a feel for the game, your play will become more assertive (perhaps overly so). Eventually a player reaches the enlightened state of knowing just what it is they know, and what they have yet to learn. And there’s always something. So, be confident in your abilities, and learn to recognise your limitations. This applies to all walks of life. Unless you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, in which case…

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    Learn How To Bluff!

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      Poor Le Chiffre, betrayed in the ultimate high-stakes game by the shedding of a single ruby tear at a critical moment. Oh, the heavy hand of irony. A fictional playboy villain is hardly representative, but everyone, player or not, has a “tell”, a visual or verbal tic or cue that signals the onset of a sudden anxiety, a spasm of nerves or excitement. Some of these tells fall into what science calls microexpressions – incredibly brief in duration movements of the facial muscles, lasting only 1/25th to 1/15th of a second.

      In poker, it is as crucial to successfully conceal your tell as it is to read that of another. If you find your opponent’s tells, you can spot when they’re bluffing. And vice versa. As each round progresses, you are called to check, bet, fold, call or raise, according to standard poker rules. Each of these actions are expected to show what you believe about your hand. Is it good or are you bluffing? What about your opponents?

      The ability to spot a tell has a range of applications that go way beyond poker. On any given day you can expect to be lied to from 10 to 200 times, and more than 82% of these lies will slip by undetected, so learning how to spot a lie or a bluff is a useful skill in its own regard. Unconvinced? Just ask Pinocchio – who would have made for a much worse poker player than Le Chiffre.

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      The Importance Of Eye Contact

      Eyes are the proverbial “windows to the soul.” A steady gaze appears to denote frankness and confidence. The key word here is appears.

      Failure to maintain eye contact is perceived as weakness, unreliability. Doubtlessly, the other extreme is equally unwelcome – everyone must surely feel the need to blink occasionally. In fact, the average person will blink 6-10 times per minute – less than this is just plain scary, whilst a higher blink rate tends to signal attraction, anxiety or excitement. Or possibly a slipped contact lens. Maintaining good eye contact is a crucial skill – especially for salespeople, managers and pretty much everyone, when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

      Dress To Impress?

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        Professional poker players are often snappy dressers. Picture the archetypal riverboat gambler, suited in linen and silks. Compare this image with a modern-day celebrity player – fashions have changed of course, but still the poker player is, more often than not, impeccably tailored.

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        His/her image is a projection, the physical manifestation of ‘confidence’ – and in poker, confidence born from skill translates as wealth, to be measured in winnings. A “good” player may dress expensively (not necessarily ostentatiously); it’s part of their bluff, they are dressing to impress. Often, to intimidate. At the same time, you may notice a lot of poker pros do the exact opposite: they choose generic getups. This way, their opponents will possibly underestimate them, which in effect gives them an advantage. There’s also something to be said about comfortable clothes – being physically comfortable allows you to be more efficient in any situation. A 2012 Northwestern University study confirms all this: “enclothed cognition” is the influence that your clothes have on your psychology and mood, and it was proven to make a huge difference.

        What can we get out of all this? Simply taking a moment to think about what your attire conveys about your personality is enough to help you make better choices. Let’s not forget, if your clothes make you feel confident, you move in an all-together more attractive manner. Which by happy coincidence makes you appear more confident than perhaps you really are. A virtuous circle.

        Sharpen Up Your Conversational Skills

        Poker is a social game. Other players are involved. You’ll have to sit near them and everything, there’s really no avoiding it. At semi-regular intervals, you’re going to have to talk to them; unless you’re actually playing a robot, conversation will be exchanged.

        You may be the shyest person in the world, a wilting violet in a dark and shadowy corner, but through playing poker, a veritable spotlight will freeze you in its beam each and every round, and you’ll have to learn to deal with it. That’s not bad at all. Even if you choose not to put them to use very often, social skills are very important in life and can make all the difference when you’re trying to land that dream job or even get a date.

        There are indeed many social, mental and psychological benefits to playing a simple, enjoyable game like poker. But perhaps the biggest one of all is the card game’s capacity to help you strengthen your self-confidence. So unwind a little, smile, crack a joke as you play; after all, if you play your cards right, you could be sitting at that table for a long time…

        References & Sources for Further Reading:

        1. mathgoodies.com – Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety
        2. impactfactory.com – Use Eye Contact to Create better Relationships
        3. phoenixcounsellingnw.co.uk – Building Self Confidence
        4. pokerstars.com – Understanding the Rules of Poker
        5. careerproinc.com – How to sharpen Your Communication Skills

        Featured photo credit: Entrepreneur via entrepreneur.com

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        Last Updated on July 3, 2020

        30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

        30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

        In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

        1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

        Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

        2. Focus on your breath

        Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

        3. Get organized and purge old items

        A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

        4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

        Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

        5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

        Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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        6. Smile more

        Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

        7. Don’t worry about the future

        As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

        8. Eat real food

        The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

        9. Choose being happy over being right

        Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

        10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

        Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

        11. Make use of filtering features on social media

        You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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        12. Get comfortable with silence

        When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

        13. Listen to understand, not to respond

        So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

        14. Put your troubles in a bubble

        Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

        15. Speak more slowly

        Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

        16. Don’t procrastinate

        Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

        17. Buy a coloring book

        Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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        18. Prioritize yourself

        You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

        19. Forgive others

        Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

        20. Check your expectations

        Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

        21. Engage in active play

        Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

        22. Stop criticizing yourself

        The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

        23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

        Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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        24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

        Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

        25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

        Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

        26. Manage your money

        Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

        27. Stop trying to control everything

        Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

        28. Practice affirmations

        Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

        29. Get up before sunrise

        Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

        30. Be yourself

        Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

        Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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