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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 September 12, 2019

        12 Things You Should Remember When Feeling Lost in Life

        12 Things You Should Remember When Feeling Lost in Life

        Even the most charismatic people you know, whether in person or celebrities of some sort, experience days where they feel lost in life and isolated from everyone else.

        While it’s good to know we aren’t alone in this feeling, the question still remains:

        What should we do when we feel lost and lonely?

        Here are 12 things to remember:

        1. Recognize That It’s Okay!

        The truth is, there are times you need to be alone. If you’ve always been accustomed to being in contact with people, this may prove difficult.

        However, learning how to be alone and comfortable in your own skin will give you confidence and a sense of self reliance.

        We cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to become self reliant when we look for constant companionship.

        Learn how to embrace your me time: What Your Fear of Being Alone Is Really About and How to Get over It

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        2. Use Your Lost and Loneliness as a Self-Directing Guide

        You’ve most likely heard the expression: “You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.”

        Loneliness also serves as a life signal to indicate you’re in search of something. It’s when we’re in the midst of solitude that answers come from true soul searching.

        Remember, there is more to life than what you’re feeling.

        3. Realize Loneliness Helps You Face the Truth

        Being in the constant company of others, although comforting sometimes, can often serve as a distraction when we need to face the reality of a situation.

        Solitude cuts straight to the chase and forces you to deal with the problem at hand. See it as a blessing that can serve as a catalyst to set things right!

        4. Be Aware That You Have More Control Than You Think

        Typically, when we see ourselves as being lost or lonely, it gives us an excuse to view everything we come in contact with in a negative light. It lends itself to putting ourselves in the victim mode, when the truth of the matter is that you choose your attitude in every situation.

        No one can force a feeling upon you! It is YOU who has the ultimate say as to how you choose to react.

        5. Embrace the Freedom That the Feeling of Being Alone Can Offer

        Instead of wallowing in self pity, which many are prone to do because of loneliness, try looking at your circumstance as a new-found freedom.

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        Most people are in constant need of approval of their viewpoints. Try enjoying the fact that  you don’t need everyone you care about to support your decisions.

        6. Acknowledge the Person You Are Now

        Perhaps you feel a sense of loneliness and confusion because your life circumstances have taken you away from the persona that others know to be you.

        Perhaps the new you differs radically from the old. Realize that life is about change and how we react to that change. It’s okay that you’re not who you used to be.

        Take a look at this article and learn to accept your imperfect self: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

        7. Keep Striving to Do Your Best

        Often those who are feeling isolated and unto themselves will develop a defeatist attitude. They’ll do substandard work because their self esteem is low and they don’t care.

        Never let this feeling take away your sense of worth! Do your best always and when you come through this dark time, others will admire how you stayed determined in spite of the obstacles you had to overcome.

        And to live your best life, you must do this ONE thing: step out of your comfort zone.

        8. Don’t Forget That Time Is Precious

        When we’re lost in a sea of loneliness and depression, it’s all too easy to reflect on regrets of past life events. This does nothing but feed negativity and perpetuate the situation.

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        Instead of falling prey to this common pitfall, put one foot in front of the other and acknowledge every positive step you take. By doing this, you can celebrate the struggles you overcome at the end of the day.

        9. Remember, Things Happen for a Reason

        Every circumstance we encounter in our life is designed to teach us and that lesson is in turn passed on to others.

        Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to figure out the lesson to be learned, while other times, we simply need to have faith that if the lesson wasn’t meant directly for us to learn from, how we handled it was observed by someone who needed to learn.

        Your solitude and feeling of lost, in this instance, although painful possibly, may be teaching someone else.

        10. Journal During This Time

        Record your thoughts when you’re at the height of loneliness and feeling lost. You’ll be amazed when you reflect back at how you viewed things at the time and how far you’ve come later.

        This time (if recorded) can give you a keen insight into who you are and what makes you feel the way you feel.

        11. Remember You Aren’t the First to Feel This Way

        It’s quite common to feel as if we’re alone and no one else has ever felt this way before. We think this because at the time of our distress, we’re silently observing others around us who are seemingly fine in every way.

        The truth is, we can’t possibly know the struggles of those around us unless they elect to share them. We ALL have known this pain!

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        Try confiding in someone you trust and ask them how they deal with these feelings when they experienced it. You may be surprised at what you learn.

        12. Ask for Help If the Problem Persists

        The feeling of being lost and lonely is common to everyone, but typically it will last for a relatively short period of time.

        Most people will confess to, at one time or another, being in a “funk.” But if the problem persists longer than you feel it should, don’t ignore it.

        When your ability to reason and consider things rationally becomes impaired, do not poo poo the problem away and think it isn’t worthy of attention. Seek medical help.

        Afraid to ask for help? Here’s how to change your outlook to aim high!

        Final Thoughts

        Loneliness and a sense of feeling lost can in many ways be extremely painful and difficult to deal with at best. However, these feelings can also serve as a catalyst for change in our lives if we acknowledge them and act.

        Above anything, cherish your mental well being and don’t underestimate its worth. Seek professional guidance if you’re unable to distinguish between a sense of freedom for yourself and a sense of despair.

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        Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

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