Today I want to talk about the difference between positive thinking and wishful thinking.

Positive thinking is beneficial, in life and in poker, as it helps cultivate confidence. When you approach the game with a positive attitude, it can enhance your decision-making abilities and overall performance.

Confidence in poker is important because it allows you to make calculated risks, trust your instincts, and effectively manage your emotions. Positive thinking can help you maintain composure during both winning and losing streaks, enabling you to make rational decisions under pressure.

Wishful Thinking

On the other hand, wishful thinking in poker can be detrimental. If you engage in wishful thinking, you might make irrational decisions or take unnecessary risks, hoping for a favorable outcome without considering the actual odds or probabilities involved. Wishful thinking can cloud your judgment, lead to impulsive actions, and ultimately result in poor decision-making. This can be costly in a game like poker that requires strategic thinking and risk assessment.

Here are some actual hands shared with me, where I believe “wishful thinking” took over and led our Hero to unnecessary gambling. 

Example Hands

Example Hand #1

Middle stage of a Saturday $10K guarantee. 9 handed. Blinds 2K/4K/4K.   Hero starts the hand with 80K.

Pre-flop: UTG+1 (Bill) raises to 10K.  HJ (Clayton) calls 10K.  BB (Hero) calls with J♣-9♣.

Flop:  Q-6♣-4♣.  36K in the pot.  Hero checks.  Bill bets 20K.  Clayton raises to 70K.

Wishful Thinking:  “I’m only 2 to 1 against making my flush draw.  If Bill calls, the odds will be better than that.”

The Truth:  Bill might fold.  We could be up against a better flush draw, in which case we’re practically drawing dead.  We could also be up against a set. To account for these factors, we need to be getting significantly more than 2 to 1 here.

What actually happened:  Hero calls.  Bill folds.  Clayton shows 6-6♠ and is nearly a 3 to 1 favorite.  Just for spite, the board runs out Q-6♣-4♣-9-9♠ and Hero is eliminated with trip 9s.

Example Hand #2

Early in a daily tournament, blinds 200/400/400.  9-handed. Hero starts the hand with 25K.

Pre-flop: Hero is dealt 7♣-7♠ from UTG and raises to 1K.  UTG+1 (Margaret) re-raises to 4K.  A tight player on the Button (Rob) cold calls 4K. 

Wishful Thinking: “If I flop a set I’ll stack one of them. And I could win unimproved. I’ll call.”

The Truth:  From UTG+1, this is a strong 3-bet from Margaret.  Rob is likely to be calling with a better pair than Hero’s. Pocket 7s are almost never winning the showdown unimproved. Out of position, we won’t always get the full double up when we flop a set (which will only happen 12% of the time anyway!)  Occasionally set-over-set will happen and we’ll certainly lose our entire stack. 

What actually happened: J♣-T-7 flop.  Hero checks, Margaret bets 6k.  Rob goes all-in.  Hero calls.  Margaret folds.  Rob shows J-J♠ for top set. Hero is eliminated.


While positive thinking can enhance your confidence and decision-making abilities, wishful thinking can be counterproductive and lead to “unwise gambling choices”. The best players know how to strike a balance between a positive mindset and a realistic understanding of the situation, considering both the opportunities and risks involved.

Like this post? Head on over to the sidebar and subscribe. We will let you know whenever a new APT blog post goes live!