In poker, arrogance gets the attention. But humility, I believe, gets the money in the long run.
Consider the following. You're watching poker on TV. Who are you going to focus on? The guy who is loud, obnoxious, cocky, and taunting his opponent or the guy who is just sitting quietly? At the table in your local poker room, who are you going to talk about afterwards, the guy who was friendly, helpful and pleasant or the know it all who berated you for the stupid play he thought you made that cost him the pot?
You'll remember and talk about the obnoxious jerk most likely, no?
But who'll get the money? Maybe the same guy, you think. Yes, maybe. But think about the following.
You're in a hand. You have ( )As. A new guy to your right a few seats over raises with a Qs showing. The next two guys fold. You want to impress the other folks at the table that you're the cock of the block. You're used to the attention of being the guy who raises and the guy who is feared. Are you going to fold? No! You are going to raise. And raise you do.
Everyone folds except the original raiser who calls. "Hah" you think. You're sure you have him intimidated. On the next card you get a . He gets a suited King. You're high. Can you check here? No way. That would show weakness. You're the tough guy – the MAN at this table. You need to keep up appearances. So you bet.
Your opponent – the new guy whom you've never played with before – he quietly raises – inching out his chips. Imagine. He's raising you. You can't let him get away with thinking he's top dog. So you raise him back. He quietly calls.
Fifth street pairs your 7. It also pairs his King. You have a pair of 7s showing. He has a pair of Kings showing. He's high. He pauses and checks. Once again, you need to show strength – if only to keep up appearances. So you bet. He pauses again and then raises. He's clearly not intimidated. Still, you can't fold here. He could be bluffing. You can't let him get away with it. You could still catch an Ace or a 7 to improve to something that would likely beat what you guess is Kings and Queens. So you call.
Sixth street seems to offer neither you nor he any help – a blank for each of you. He bets. The pot is quite large now. And you don't want to turn tail and concede. You call. The River gives you a second pair – but a low pair as you hit another 4. He bets again. The pot is really large now. And besides, you wouldn't be able to live it down if you folded and he flipped up his cards to reveal that he only had the Kings. So you call him. He's full: Kings full of Queens. His slight hesitation on fifth street, bad acting as it was, seems to have worked. He hauls in a monster pot that you helped enlarge. Good work bucko!
That's arrogance at the table. Humility works in the opposite way. Being humble is being able to admit you are wrong about your first impression – as facts in the form of cards and actions tell you that you were wrong in your initial assessment. Being humble allows you to fold when you think you're beaten – no fear about how it will look to others. Humility allows you to leave a game that has been filled up with players whom you estimate to be as good as or better than you.
Humility keeps you from spouting off to others. It keeps the uninformed in the dark and at the table. A loser is more likely to continue to play and lose if his nose isn't rubbed in his bad play. Humility also keeps you from proclaiming your victories. Most fish don't like to think that they're swimming with sharks.
A humble player is much more interested in improving his game than in maintaining his image at the table. So he's always eager to learn – lest he miss out on something that another player may have. Humility propels many to read and ask questions and get to know what makes other players tick – in the hope of learning something that will improve his game.
Humility has other advantages. Other people, especially poor poker players but even winning players, like humble people. Humility is attractive to others. Bad players feel comfortable playing with someone who is friendly and unthreatening, quiet and unassuming. Bad players shy away from confronting an arrogant guy. They'd rather play elsewhere. Good players usually enjoy taking on the arrogant guy at the table. They'll play hard against him if only to knock him down a peg.
Most people tend to play softer against the nice humble guy sitting next to them. Since they like the humble player, they're more likely to go easy on him – checking the river, not raising his bring-in, and not trying to bluff him out of a pot. It's not a rule of course, but it's the general practice from what I've seen. By maintaining a low profile you're encouraging that type of behavior against you. It's the type of behavior you want – since it makes it easier for you to see more hands cheaply.
So if you're shooting for a TV show or a marketing contract, be the arrogant guy who points out everyone's flaws but his own. Be the noisy competitor who promotes his own ability while insulting and denigrating that of others.
But if you want the money to come from the game itself – from the maximizing of your wins and the minimizing of your losses – then eschew the image of the arrogant player. Be cocky for the show but humble for the dough.