The Success Principles of Poker: Optimism Begets Optimism

When I stopped drinking alcohol I became an optimist, which is quite a feat for me because I was raised a devout pessimist.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t visit my family as much as I should. I feel suffocated in a cloak of negativity and derision when I'm there.

I cannot breathe.

There was a time when it wasn’t like that for me. Stand in a field of turkey shit long enough and you won’t smell the turkey shit.

It was belief that manufactured additional levels of optimism and the more I smiled, the more my pessimistic attitude seemed to disintegrate.

“If I can quit drinking alcohol then I can do anything,” I thought. It set off a chain reaction and it’s still reverberating today.

The Essence of Optimism

Marvin Rettenmaier
Marvin Rettenmaier: Essence of poker otimisim.

When I first came up with the idea to try and get a poker article published I wrote to five different editors.

The plan was to write to five different editors each week until somebody took a punt on me. But I always knew that I would get a call after my first five submissions.

I told myself that I would be accepted, and I was.

That first magazine was Poker Pro Europe. They said I could write for them but they wouldn’t pay me a fee.

A lot of pessimists would have told them to go and jump off a cliff. I didn’t. I wrote for them, free of charge, for the next six months.

I could see a bigger picture. This is the essence of optimism for me.

Jack Canfield says you always have to ask yourself a question when presented with a scenario:

“Where’s the greater benefit in this event?” 

That’s what I did when I was writing for free. I knew that it allowed me to get my work out to an audience. It enabled me to practice under pressure.

It gave me experience, and it allowed me the opportunity to get noticed by people who would pay me. It worked. I was in.

Yet another bad beat victim
The ones who fall by the wayside are the ones who are full of pessimism.

Pessimism Twists Your Gut

Once in the poker industry the one thing that bowled me over was the stench of optimism. It’s everywhere.

I have never known an industry like it, and it was the complete opposite of the pessimistic attitude that I was used to back on the iron road.

Pessimism twists your gut.

It puts visceral fat around your belly, it draws lines in your face, it creases your skin, it makes you look old, your back bows, your legs ache and your lips are pulled down as if operated by the hand that spends most of it’s time up Punch’s ass.

Optimism makes you feel light; it makes you laugh, it blows fresh air into your eyes, it clears cobwebs, it makes you walk on snow without leaving a footprint, is makes you seem tall, it makes you sound like you know what you are talking about, and it makes you feel young.

You have two choices in life: optimism or pessimism. Why would you choose pessimism?

You choose this route because you are scared of failure and lack confidence. You don’t want to appear arrogant. You are afraid of trying new things; you don’t like change and are worried about what people think of you.

Poker will sort the men out from the boys and the girls from the women. Those eating chicken dinners get fed over the long term.

In order to get that far you need to have a bucket full of optimism. The ones who fall by the wayside are the ones who are full of pessimism.

How often do you hear a top quality professional poker player talking about his or her bad beat? They exist, but not as much as you think.

The ones that do pop up occasionally are generally players who have had success in the past and it seems to have eluded them for reasons that they can’t understand.

It’s behind you. PESSIMISM.

Fedor Holz3
The very best believe the world will supply them with everything they need.

Optimism is a Necessity in Poker

The top quality poker players don’t moan about inconsequential things like being outdrawn. They know that it’s part of the game.

To once again paraphrase Jack Canfield: “When they look at lemons, they see lemonade.”

They are practicing the belief that there is a greater benefit in that event.

Sure they have lost this particular hand, but without this element of luck there wouldn’t be so many bad players to give you money.

I used to think the high level of optimism in the poker world bordered on arrogance; and you do have to be careful. The line is as thin as Dominik Nitsche if you turn him sideways and get him to play Musical Statues.

Now I know it’s a necessity because of the brutality of the game. Without it I think the "poker circus" would be renamed the "poker asylum."

There is nothing that I love more than to hear a young poker player tell me that (s)he will get there one day. I love that attitude.

The very best amongst them believe that the world is designed to supply them with everything they need. My tip to you - yes you Mr. Pessimist - is to behave the same way.

Once you kick the optimistic ball, it just keeps on rolling. Energy is created. Optimism begets optimism and before you know it everyone you are surrounded by thinks just like you.

Just don’t be a cock about it.

It's All Down to You, Baby

Do you think rich people are always happy because they are rich or are they rich because they are happy?

You have the opportunity to choose the answer to that question. Nobody can force you to think.

That’s all down to you, baby. Understand that. Play with that. Do something good with that.

It's not quite a shark, but it's close.

Reframe your thoughts and make them optimistic. Burn the pessimistic ones.

Have you noticed that so many poker players travel all over the world?

I’m not talking about traveling for the sake of playing poker. I’m talking about swimming with sharks, climbing mountains and skinny-dipping in Amazonian rainforests.

They don’t think they are going to catch Ebola, they don’t think they are going to get eaten by those sharks, and they don’t think they are going to kidnapped, raped and eaten by a South American drug cartel. (Ok, so I have a lot of work to do with my pessimistic exploratory views.)

And perhaps poker isn’t for you? Perhaps your design was for you to come into the game, take all the accolades, develop a strong sense of optimism and then get the hell out of dodge?

Perhaps the universe has something bigger in mind for you. Now what do you think about that question? Do you have a pessimistic answer or an optimistic one?

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