Does winning have a mental effect?



What is the psychological effect of winning or cashing high in a tournament to a recreational player? I have heard a similar question asked in a slightly different way: “How much money is life-changing?”
One player I know, an avid cash player, placed third in a WPT event and not much has changed. He loved cashing so high; had fun when folks asked how him how he did but is still playing regularly and isn’t turning pro. He gets some more respect when he plays tournaments, though.
Another player, Nabil Hirezi, won a WPT event and life has changed. He’s a dentist and often goes by “Doc.”

More people know him; he’s traveled to several major tournaments. He’s not giving up his dental practice and turning pro; but it’s obvious the recognition and “celebrity” have changed his poker life.

Not only did he win a significant amount of money, he got to contribute some of it to his foundation. He also got a chance to play at the WPT Borgata Championship. He has been recruited to be a bounty at this year’s WPT and even without the bounty he feels like he’s a target in the weekly tournaments.

Neither has experienced the “instant winner” lottery syndrome. Many who win the lottery lose or spend all of their winnings within five years. Maybe the difference is “life changing money.”

Maybe the difference is feeling you earned the win. Surely each person acknowledged the combination of skill, luck and not getting unlucky. Both acknowledged the years of play and enjoyment they get from the game.

I had the certain feeling they thought they earned their places. Hirezi talks about people telling him his last hand was lucky. He had pocket 10s against a pro with A-K. A king came on the flop and a 10 landed on the river.

Doc was ahead preflop and, of course, won the hand. He reminds people that it took four days to get to heads-up and wishes he had that much luck in all aspects of his life.

One hand does not define a player. In terms of these players, both still are able to keep their heads in the game; you should, too.

— Dr. Stephen Bloomfield is a licensed psychologist and avid poker player. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine