Overconfidence in poker

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Show me someone who never makes a mistake, and I’ll show you a loser. So long as you make decisions, whether in poker or in life, it is humanly impossible to never make a mistake.

Most mistakes result from making a decision or taking an action that has a negative consequence. Some mistakes are related to one’s personal character or a trait – such as over-confidence in making decisions. Can you be too confident? In selecting the Top 10 Mistakes, our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Lab voted Over-confidence in 9th place.

What is confidence?

To best understand how you might be over-confident, consider the meaning of “confidence.” The most appropriate definition as it relates to playing poker is “self-assuredness.” You just know that your decision is the correct one – no doubt about it. You are absolutely certain.

In general, it is healthy to be confident in your judgments and concomitant decisions. It gives you a measure of comfort. But you can get too comfortable – over-confident in your decisions. As a result, you stop asking questions of yourself. Then you plunge ahead, perhaps leading to dire consequences.

One way or another, it costs you.

Over-confidence leads to other mistakes!

Perhaps the most frequent consequence of over-confidence in poker is totally misinterpreting your opponent’s action. Example: An opponent in a middle position raises on the flop. In a late position, you immediately read him as holding top pair on the board. But, if you think carefully about that situation, based on the cards on the board, he might just as well have two-pair or perhaps a draw to a flush or straight. He could even have a set; but you are certain that he would slow-play a set on the flop.

Indeed, you are very confident that he has top pair. You make your move on that basis. With an over-pair in the hole, you are sure that you have the best hand at this point. So you reraise – and your opponent just calls. You feel very secure in your assessment and your action: You put him on a pair of jacks; and, with your pocket queens in the hole, you feel very comfortable in reraising him.

The turn card doesn’t change anything. He checks to you, and then calls your bet on the turn. Likewise the river card does not appear to make much difference. Again your opponent checks to you. You make the bet – but this time he raises you! Check-raise! Of course, you have to call his raise. He shows a set of fours and takes the pot. He trapped you.

You were so confident – so cocksure, so dogmatic – that you didn’t bother to consider the other hands your opponent might be holding; and you neglected to use the information you had already acquired about your opponent. Based on his actions in previous hands, you knew that he is deceptive. He had check-raised in at least one previous hand. You assumed he would always slow-play a set on the flop – any set. You were so confident in your initial evaluation – overly so. In hindsight, perhaps he raised on the flop to force out an opponent who might otherwise catch a club flush.

Being over-confident blinded you to other possibilities, As a consequence, in the final analysis, you made bets that cost you chips. Yes, over-confidence is a mistake.

Words to play by …

“If you find faults (in your game), you should correct them.

When you find none, you should try even harder.”

– Israel Zangwill (1864-1926; famed English humorist, novelist, playwright)

You can try out your strategy by playing our free live online poker.

 

 

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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