Poker, of course, is the kind of game that is bound to attract people with larger than average egos. Indeed, when we watch top players on TV, heaps of confidence (or, very often, outright arrogance) seems like a necessary characteristic to succeed. A more diplomatic description of these players would be to say that they have larger than life personalities, and that much of their antics are for the cameras, but the ego can be an Achilles Heel…

Unfortunately for many players, they can take their image and the importance of coming across as cleverer than their peers too seriously – so much so that this attitude has priority over the small matter of making money! Their overall improvement also suffers, because in convincing themselves that they understand the game better than others, they run the risk of failing to adapt, of not plugging holes in their game, and making useful tweaks that can make such a difference.

A perfect example is the player who likes to think that they’re capable of making ‘wise’ laydowns with strong hands. If we go about it properly, we can use their perceived ‘superiority’ against them. And the great thing is that it’s possible to exploit such players while at the same time massaging their egos. The point behind this is that, because they’re not aware that they’re being taken advantage of, we can keep doing it over and over, and each time reinforces their belief that they’re doing the right thing. It’s one of those strange dynamics that make poker so fascinating – it’s quite feasible to make what in so many cases would be an accurate decision but can also be a mistake, and continue to lose money each time and, on the opposite end of this scenario, other players can continue to exploit this leak with a repetitive strategy that itself can be countered. All the more important, then, to constantly monitor our progress, how we play in a host of situations and, crucially, what adjustments we might need to make. The ego can be a serious obstacle to that kind of thinking.

We often see players raise pre-flop and then throw in the expected Continuation Bet on a Flop of, say, Axx against the only caller, in the Big Blind. The latter then wakes up to raise to triple the bet, and it’s decision time. But the original raiser barely thinks, and folds to proudly reveal an Ace. We don’t need to know what the Big Blind has; what matters is what the other player thinks the Big Blind has! Whatever that ‘read’ is, their fear is that it might well beat their pair of Aces, and they’re so confident in their assessment that they’re willing to back it up by surrendering the pot. Of course, we should always be open to our opponents having whatever hands are theoretically possible and, in turn, be prepared to change our original plan even if it means folding to significant aggression. However, we absolutely don’t want to be the kind of player who becomes so obsessed with making ‘clever’ laydowns when chances are we’re ahead. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s usually a duck.

Rather than insisting on being the player whose actions are too heavily influenced by ego, we need to be on the lookout for such people, and not be afraid to do whatever’s necessary to help them arrive at the ‘correct’ decision. Once we’ve identified such a victim, it’s a case of engineering the right circumstances in which they can be faithful to their misplaced approach. This means making the kind of bets that trigger the process; our hand is irrelevant – we’re playing a role in this mini-drama…

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About the Author


AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

Latest changes

The last changes of the page “Boosting Egos Boosts Your Bankroll” was made by AngusD on July 19, 2021