Overconfidence is a Silent Killer

You’ll often hear it said that confidence is needed for success. But is that really true? As with many things in the mental game, the truth emerges once you better understand the nature of confidence. Confidence is a funny thing because people can be confident while having very little skill. Of course, the poker players who think like this are the ones you line up to sit with, but understanding how this can happen, is important to avoiding overconfidence. This phenomenon has actually been studied and it’s called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias in which the unskilled suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to an inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes. In other words, being blind to your own weaknesses, or worse, blind to the reality that you have weaknesses makes you overconfident.

Ignorance of your own ignorance creates overconfidence. This kind of overconfidence has consumed some of great poker players over the years because they were blind to what created their success. Blindness to your own weaknesses is why overconfidence is a silent killer.

Another major thing that Dunning & Kruger found is that people with actual skill often have low confidence. “Actual competence may weaken self-confidence as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding.” Actual skill weakens confidence! Incredible when you think about it. I’ve also found that confidence can decrease when you learn more. Finding out how much more there is to learn can make you feel like you actually don’t know that much. But this is just another part of the same illusion. While it may seem as though they don’t know much, in reality they already know more than their most of their competitors.

“ confidence is a tricky concept is that having too much confidence can destroy prior success. ”

Another reason confidence is a tricky concept is that having too much confidence can destroy prior success. Part of the problem with the idea that confidence is needed for success is that people don’t often look beyond the finish line, to what happens after they win their first big tournament or move up to $5/$10. Having too much confidence will make you believe that your success means you’ll have more of it in the future, no matter what you do. Of course, the opposite is true and poker is littered with stories of players going bust after winning big tournaments, or who got complacent after the internet boom. I interviewed Gavin Griffin (the first player to ever win an EPT, WPT, and WSOP title) on my podcast in 2012 and he talked at length about how this exact problem caused him to end up back playing low stakes.

What’s the lesson? Becoming successful – whatever that means to you – isn’t enough. You have to think beyond your initial target and look towards the long-term. If your goal is to move up to $2/$4, add the goal of consistently beating the regulars at $2/$4. It’s not enough just to get there, you have to stay there and that means constantly improving, celebrating your small successes along the way, and realizing you always have weaknesses to work on. Overconfidence causes complacency, and the combination can be lethal to your long-term success in poker. A simple way of avoiding overconfidence is to remember that you always have weaknesses and always things to improve in order to stay on top of your game and continue to be successful.


Jared Tendler
Jared Tendler, MS, LMHC, is the leading expert in the mental game of poker. He’s coached over 300 players from around the world, including some of poker’s top players, Dusty “Leatherass” Schmidt, Niman “Samoleus” Kenkre, and Ben “NeverScaredB” Wilinofsky (Winner of EPT Berlin). He has worked with players from 38 countries as well as thousands more through online training videos and forums. The combination of earning a Masters degree in psychology, being a licensed mental health counselor, and over seven years of experience as a performance coach has given Jared a unique approach to helping players of all skill levels improve and exceed their goals.
Jared Tendler
Jared Tendler

Latest posts by Jared Tendler (see all)

Jared Tendler
Categories: Freeroll Original

Comments are closed.