Into Wishin'?
These days, in my professional life, I use a lot of problem solving skills, logic, and discreet mathematics. All of which I believe are fundamental tools in the game of poker. However, my education and background actually revolve around a different skill set entirely. I studied Theatre Performance at Concordia University as part of their Bachelor of Fine Arts program and I spent several years working as an actor and comedian. As a performer the skills I used had almost nothing to do with the type of logic and mathematics I use today. The tools of my trade back then included psychology, emotional awareness and especially intuition. As my skills in poker progress I am begining to realize that it presents me with a unique opportunity to combine both the logical and intuitive sides of my personality and training.

When I first started playing poker my intuition was always that my opponents were bluffing. As I got a bit more experienced, my intiuition seemed to always be telling me that my opponent has me beat. These days, although I recognize that when faced with strong resistance in a hand, the latter is more often true than the former, I am much more capable of accurately "sensing" my opponents' strength and often pinning down almost their exact hand. Slowly but surely, I believe my intuitions are becoming far more reliable.

Unlike the mathematics of poker which is structured and well defined; containing a finite enumerable set of variables, the intuition of a poker player relies on an almost infinite set of complex variables and analogies. I believe that after you reach a certain level in the modern game of poker, the mathematical and logical abilities of all the players become more and more balanced. Therefore, what will seperate you from the rest in terms of proficiency and skill will have more and more to do with your intuitive ability as opposed to your mathematical/problem solving ability. I am not alone in thinking this, Mike Caro published an article in Bluff magazine with basically the same hypothesis. So, the interesting question becomes how does one develop and improve these skills?

First of all it's important to define what exactly the term "intuition" means. So, here it is:
in·tu·i·tion n. The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition
I feel the important part of this definition is the term "immidiate cognition", you see I don't believe that intuition is some sort of "magical" phenomena or that it is in any way related to concepts such as ESP or being "Psychic". I believe that it is just your brain solving a problem based on input that you are not always consciously aware of. This input includes emotional response to your opponent(s) as well as all of your analogous experiences. Meaning the more you've been in comporable situations, the more input your intuition has to draw upon. So, the simple answer becomes that you can improve your intuitive skills by gaining more and more experience. I think we need to take that concept a little bit further by looking at what can be done to make the most out of your experience. In other words adding quality to quantity of experience.

Here's a list of things that I feel will help me do that:

1. Pay Attention!
It's easy to get bored or distracted during a game of poker, since you are often folding a lot of hands. The trick is to involve yourself mentally in every hand, even when you don't have cards. Watch the players reaction to the community cards as they fall. See how the react to bets and how they make best and, most importantly try to put each player on a hand.

2. Take Your Time
There's no need to rush any decision. Even when the play is obvious, take a moment to experience everything about the hand. Look at your opponent and let the situation fully sink in before you act.

3. Trust Yourself
If you have a strong feeling about your opponent's hand or a particular play, go with it! Sometimes, it's tough to fold a hand that reason tells you should be pretty good, but if you're intuition is strongly telling you that your beat, you probably are. A great example of this is that an opponent of mine recently folded KK on a board of 8 8 2 rainbow, because his intuition told him I must have an 8. He was absolutely correct, and the other guy in the pot ended up doubling me up when I hit quads on the river vs. his pocket Jacks. So, once you've gained the experience and paid attention, trust yourself and you should make or save a lot more money.

Maybe none of these are radically new concepts but I am sure many people, including myself, are guilty of not following this advice. It's easy to become lazy, just make the obvious plays and rely on the math to guide you. But if you want to become a world class player, or at least if you have a commitment to constant improvement, I think following this advice is cruicial.
Anonymous Marc R. said...

You should read the book Blink for more of this type of intuition thinking.

4:33 PM  

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