This week’s PokerGO Poker After Dark Throwback Hand features another classic pair of poker legends going head-to-head in Mike Matusow and Jean-Robert Bellande. As ever, the drama isn’t just in how the hand plays out, but also the way the two players deal with what happens, talking us through their processes in the exclusive-to-PokerGO Director’s Cut interviews. One of the most important parts of the hand this week is confidence, or rather, a lack of it.
The founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Overlooking that this was a fairly glib response to the board member asking about the brake-pads on his latest model (just kidding), Ford hit upon one of the most appropriate philosophies for poker in history.
When Bellande is talking to camera beforehand in the exclusive Director’s Cut content, he bemoans his awful luck in recent Poker after Dark appearances. He talks about how he always seems to get it in ahead, yet doesn’t even get excited anymore, since he always gets outdrawn.
Which brings us to his latest hand, when, of course, he is outdrawn spectacularly. Matusow, as much as he is able to, resists the desire to crow, but Bellande has yet more emotional memory to his lack of luck.
Have you ever looked at a hand play out that you’re favorite in and thought of the cards that would bring you doom just before one of those cards arrives on the river? Of course, you have, you’ve played poker. But the trick is being able to forget it. In talking of it, Bellande isn’t just remembering it, he’s permitting the thought process to happen again and again. He’s engaging the services of paranoia.
Back in 1988, a British comedy programme called Red Dwarf featured an episode called Confidence and Paranoia, in which the main character is followed around by physical manifestations of those two emotions. While the character called ‘Paranoia’ is initially more annoying to the episode’s protagonist, the secondary morale to the story is that too much confidence is just as potentially damaging.
In poker, surviving the slings and arrows of upswings and downswings can be just as fraught with danger. While the initial thought might be that an upswing can simply be enjoyed, success can pose perils of its own. Over-confidence can lead to a reluctance to improve. It’s often better in poker to work from what you can do to improve. Having more confidence, say after having taken down a first major live tournament, can make anyone think they really have cracked the game.
Being too negative is just the same. Any cause for pessimism in poker threatens your ability to play at your peak level. Bellande clearly hasn’t had a good time in the Poker After Dark studios prior to this latest bad beat. But does it affect his decision-making? Crucially, no.
You still have to play each hand to the best of your ability, because poker is a long game, and perhaps never better illustrated than in Poker After Dark. Players who came on the show were often asked back and that’s why we love it – those returning faces, with their backstories, bad beats, miracle rivers and all.
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