Recently I tweeted "One of the top reasons people suck at poker: refusing to accept reality; don't kid yourself, you're not that good and should try to get better". I wanted to expand on that and obviously couldn't do it on twitter since we're limited to 140 characters per tweet. So I am doing so here.
The fact of it is that most poker players are wrong when judging their skill level relative to everybody else. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is due to lack of awareness, specifically of oneself. This is a passive personality trait (character makeup might be a better term) and if you lack it, then you'll never know unless somebody tells you (hey, I tried to tweet it to you guys that needed to hear it). It reminds me of the funny quote "I hope I'm not so dumb that I don't realize I'm dumb" and while being dumb and lacking self awareness are not the same, the idea is the same.
The second reason is because we refuse to admit we are not good at something. I'm not a psychologist (or is it psychiatrist?) but I'm trying to interpret why people do this. I guess you can say it's because of ego. While that explains it sometimes, I think other times we just don't want to admit any of our shortcomings. This is much more occurrent among males for obvious reasons (trying to establish dominance among males goes back to our caveman days, pretty much applies to every species on Earth so men shouldn't feel bad about this). There also seems to be a correlation...the bigger your ego is, the more blinded you become.
Now here's something surprising for people that know me. As someone that's been successful at poker for many years, I've been guilty of both...lacking awareness and, yes, having an ego. I think as humans we all have varying degrees of both. It's a matter of how much and whether it's a detriment to your growth over the long run. If so, you need to open your eyes (gain awareness) or suppress your ego.
About 4 years ago I was absolutely crushing the $5/$10 nl games online where I was the biggest winner (before Poker TableRatings, which tracks online cash game results, there were people that would datamine all hands across sites and report them in poker forums to list the winners and losers). Well the list came out and I would top it consistently and a few regs (w/ egos obviously) berated me in the forums and questioned how I can win so much when I made some fundamental mistakes (reason: I was better than most at hand reading, adjusting to tendencies, and just never tilting). Basically online poker was (and actually still is) a d**k waving contest, although I never got involved in those contests. I did fire back at the haters a little...after all they were dragging my screenname through the mud. Basically I just pointed to my results. I guess I had some ego (as explained later), maybe self-pride to defend myself when it probably wasn't necessary.
The funny thing was they were right. They pointed out my mistakes and what I was doing wrong (to try to justify why I wasn't that great at poker). Well I couldn't thank them enough because they basically coached me for free and found leaks in my game that I was unaware of. I spent the next year working on the correct fundamentals (and still work on them to this day) and became a much better poker player, opening my eyes and giving me plenty of "aha" moments.
As for ego, we've all gone through good runs where we felt like we were the best. I was guilty of that a couple of times....I want to blame it on human nature....when things are going right, you feel invincible, when things are going wrong, you question yourself. I've done a pretty good job of keeping it in check though....I guess the humility in me just overpowers it. I recommend everybody to find your humility and let it grow...I know for a few of you, that's almost an impossible task, but it's possible...seriously one can not be humble enough. The only exception I would make would be if you depended on the media and fame to make money...eg a Phil Hellmuth or Mike Matusow type where being a cocky jackass leads to sponsorship deals, even then it's not so great...after all do you want the general public to think you're a cocky ass?
So don't feel bad if you're just reflecting on yourself and realizing you're not as good as you thought you were. I've had this epiphany several times over the years. It's a good thing, trust me. This is a very important step in becoming a better poker player, as well as a better person.
As for the title of the blog, being the GOAT (Greatest of all time) is usually detrimental to most...actually to everybody but the actual GOAT...ducy? If not, reread this blog. ;)