This month I’m concluding my math-vs.-feel series as I have a few new ideas brewing in my head. In the previous columns I focused on the math side of things, covering a few key concepts behind the game. Now let’s focus on some of the ideas I think are behind what we regard as the feel of the game.
In Doyle Brunson’s Super System he talks about the “recall” you may have at the tables, which is the term he uses for that gut feeling you have about a hand, situation or opponent that stems from your subconscious. This is not a magical sixth sense, but it comes from the experience you have and all of the hands you’ve played. Many of these hands or situations you may not consciously be able to bring to the front of your mind or even articulate. Your subconscious mind can recall information for you and provide you with those instincts or gut feelings.
Sometimes this may be the betting pattern of your opponents or the way they’re acting that will give you that sense of where you and/or they stand. You may sense your opponent is weak, though you’re not able to explain what triggered that emotion. It may be that they leaned back from the table, they seemed to appear overly strong (which we know often means weakness), or they may do something you don’t think you have seen before. But it gives you the sense that they are weak. The key for you is to act on these feelings. Your first instinct while playing poker is often the right one. Because of this, you have to be really careful not to “think long, think wrong” while still balancing that with not acting too quickly or irrationally.
The bottom line is you must use your recall and gut feelings when you’re playing because you have those feelings for a reason. Something likely has happened in the past that’s helping you put a situation together. If you really feel you are beat, fold. If you really feel your opponent is weak then call or raise! Make that decision based on how strong your showdown value is.
Obviously if you have a monster hand, you’ll raise them, especially on the river. If you have decent showdown value, you should lean toward just calling because if you raise you likely will only get called by a better hand.
And when you really feel like your opponent is weak and you don’t have a strong hand or decent showdown value, raise! Trust your gut and take those chips. If you happen to be wrong so what. You’ll automatically learn from it and add that hand to that mysterious hand-tracking database in your head that will recall that information down the road and tell you exactly what to do next time you feel like you are in the same situation. Decide to Win!
— Lee Childs is founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker. He also is an instructor with the WPT Boot Camp. Go to www.acumenpoker.net.