Building Confidence in Dating

Learn how poker can help us approach dating with confidence and self-control.

Playing the dating game these days is a lot like playing a game of poker. It’s risky, it’s intimidating, and it requires you to exercise a certain level of emotional control if you want to win. People continue putting themselves out there for the very same reason many play poker; the potential payoff is worth the risk. However, the way in which we date has changed dramatically, and that’s causing a lot of confusion and heartache.

In the U.S. alone, there are more than 44 million people using online dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble. The online dating trend brings with it an entirely new set of challenges. People lie about their age or height. They use someone else’s photo for their own profile pic. When you throw a global pandemic into the mix, forcing people to date virtually over the last two years, you begin to unearth a myriad of frustration.

If you’re looking to improve your romantic life, you might want to learn how to play poker. Poker teaches you many of the coping skills you need to survive and thrive in the dating world.

Here are five important lessons poker can teach us about building confidence, enhancing our emotional intelligence, and practicing self-control while dating in the 21st century.

1. It’s important to know what you’re bringing to the table. 

When you sit down to start a poker game, you bring several characteristics with you. Your knowledge of the game, your skill level, your bankroll, and even your “poker face” work together to improve your odds of winning. These are all facets of your overall strategy and you’ll need a similar strategy for dating.

Start by considering what you’re bringing to the table. Why would someone want to date you? What personality traits and attributes do you have to offer a partner? Are you funny? Outgoing? Honest? A great listener? Love to laugh and do fun, exciting things? Do you have a career that you enjoy or a hobby you’re really good at that the other person might find fascinating? 

Once you’ve made a list of all the positive things you offer in a relationship, you should make a second list of what you’re looking for in a partner. Write down all of the qualities you’re seeking in a mate, making special note of the non-negotiables (i.e., non-smoker, has a stable job, does or doesn’t want kids, etc.) Then look at this list and make sure you can provide all the things you want out of the relationship to the other person as well. 

Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect mate. Provide a solid foundation by setting realistic expectations from the beginning.

2. Building confidence requires a willingness to take risks. 

Now that you know what you’re bringing to the table, it’s time to hedge your bet and make your move. Betting is risky business, and with every swipe or date, you’re taking a gamble on whether or not this could be a winner. You’re also risking a broken heart. Poker teaches us that loss is inevitable. You win some, you lose some. But as they say in most gambling games, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

The more you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and take risks, the more confidence you’ll have. Stepping through your fear means knowing there’s a chance you could face rejection in the dating game. In poker, you may lose money on your first, second, and third hands, and then hit the jackpot on the fourth. You keep playing because, with each hand, you get better and gain confidence. Keep your eye on the prize, which in the dating world, is finding the right partner.

Another way to step outside of your comfort zone is a willingness to date people that you wouldn’t necessarily consider your “type.” We all have an idea of a certain look or personality trait our significant other would have. Sometimes we get trapped in a cycle of bad relationships because that “type” isn’t what we actually need. Consider basing your “type” on how a person makes you feel rather than what they look like or what they do for a living. 

3. Emotional intelligence is the key to winning the game. 

Having the ability to keep your emotions in check is a winning strategy in poker. Controlling your emotions is also important when you’re playing the dating game, especially when things start to get serious.

Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to recognize, process, and control their emotional reactions as they happen. It’s taking the time to analyze why you’re feeling the way you are in a certain situation and then being mindful of the best response instead of giving in to a knee-jerk reaction. In poker, exercising emotional intelligence helps you keep your excitement under wraps when you’re holding pocket aces. In dating, it means pacing yourself while getting to know someone instead of giving in to the butterflies and proclaiming, ”this is the one!” It also means not creating unnecessary drama to get out of a relationship because you’re scared of having your heart broken.

In the early stages of dating, you have to walk a fine line between being excited about someone you have instant chemistry with and being cautious. Take time to understand the person as they are and be careful not to gloss over red flags. Remember your list of what you’re looking for in another person and the non-negotiables. Emotional intelligence is having the courage to walk away from someone that isn’t meeting your standards, no matter how good-looking or funny they may be. 

4. Eventually, you’ll need to lay all your cards on the table.

At some point in both poker and dating, you have to lay all your cards on the table and show your hand. If you’ve been seeing someone for a while and you want it to be more serious, you need to speak up. The same goes when you’re dating a person that you know is not right for you. Honesty is always the best policy.

At the beginning of the relationship be sure to communicate what you’re looking for. Sure, you may scare off a few people, but you’ll also save yourself a lot of time and heartache. Any successful relationship is built on a foundation of transparency and trust. Even though we’re all on our best behavior when we first start seeing someone, we still owe them (and ourselves) the truth.

In poker, laying your cards on the table is the final step towards winning the jackpot. If you lose? You simply shuffle the deck and start a new game.

5. You must practice self-control, especially when it’s time to fold. 

No matter how hard we try, sometimes relationships don’t work out. These are the times you have to practice self-control. It’s normal to be sad when romance goes awry, but an all-consuming breakup can send you into a tailspin.

Take the time to journal everything you learned during the time you spent together. Maybe there were some red flags you ignored early on in the relationship. Now you know what to look out for in the next one.

Folding in the game of poker just means that you’ve looked at the odds and have opted to minimize your losses. It’s a strategic decision that gives you the ability to come back stronger in the next game. It doesn’t mean that you’re a loser. It means that you are wise enough to know when to walk away. That’s practicing self-control.

Just remember, when it comes to winning at romance, the best thing you can do is try and stack the deck in your favor. Concentrate on building confidence while displaying emotional intelligence and practicing self-control, from the very first date to the happily-ever-after.

If you’re getting back out there into the dating world, or if you’ve been there a while and are losing hope, why not improve your odds by learning to play poker? Sign up for our free online poker classes now!

By all means, be willing to bet on yourself and risk it all for love.

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