Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trusting your "Gut"

Let me start this off by explaining in no uncertain terms that I am in no way superstitious. I don't play hunches. I did however realize a few years ago that certain "gut feelings" have merit. It was after I saw a social anthropologist talk about the subconscious and how it pertains to instincts. You see, the subconscious brain can analyse and interpret data way faster than your conscious, thinking mind can. Then it pushes you in the right direction.

Let's think about that. Have you every met anybody that you "just didn't like" and couldn't figure out why? You may have been picking up on subconscious gestures that he was untruthful or insincere. Later you found out some really shady stuff about the guy and said "I told you so". Or has one of your friends talked you in to trying to kidnap a Llama while drunk from a guy known to have a shotgun just to win a drunken bar bet? Yeah, I had a feeling that wouldn't work out very well, and it didn't. It wasn't that I could see into the future, it was that my brain added up all those layers of risk and realized that there was very little chance that this wouldn't end in some kind of disaster. Now, my conscious mind was way too hammered to see all those, but my subconscious (as drunk as it was) knew it was no good.

Even Lorin, as much of a tight ass stickler for the numbers as he is, finally learned to trust this about me, and himself for that matter. After spending years playing poker and watching hundreds of thousands of hands, you should have (as long as you weren't playing too many table to pay attention) accumulated massive amounts of information on the tendencies of players and the type of hand that is going to bite you in the ass. While you can process a lot of that information consciously (K9o sucks...period) quite a bit of it is just filed away in your brain, waiting for the chance to be used.

A hand that I played a few days ago, made this point screamingly loud. I had about 17bbs on the table and hadn't played a hand in FOREVER. I decided to use my tight image to steal a pot from the hijack with 87 suited. I raised. The small blind raised all in and the the BB called. I instantly went to muck my hand, but couldn't do it. I literally had the clicker over the Fold button and could not click it. My reads on my opponents were that the initial raiser had AK and that the BB had AA or KK. And I was pretty sure about this. I still couldn't fold. I thought about it for a minute and called. The SB turned over AQ (I was close) and the BB had aces. I flopped a pair of 8s, and a gutshot. I turned a flush draw and made the straight on the river to pick up a little over $100 pot.

I got up and immediately called Lorin because I had to figure out why I had done that. It was a hugely weird feeling. After a while, we cranked out the math and realized that with my read and the pot odds, my call had a slightly positive EV. We couldn't believe it. I think that my subconscious had worked that out even though all my training says that it an easy laydown.

To make a long story short, if you have been playing poker for years, don't discount experience. If all things are equal or it is a neutral EV situation, go with your gut. Now it may take you a while to figure out the difference between a gut feeling that is boredom or fear (or a bad burrito) and one that is a subconscious tug, but if you listen close enough, you can hear it. If something about a guy's betting pattern seems off but you can't put your finger on it slow down and listen to that gut. As long as it isn't an obviously mathematically stupid situation, go with it. That is why your teachers told you that if you didn't know an SAT question, just go with your first instinct. You know a lot of shit that you don't know you know. And now, hopefully you know that......

Good luck at the tables (and away from them too)


Lorin Yelle said...

Other than they piddly shit editing that I had to do (you actually hit space THREE times after the comma, you idiot), this post was awesome- your best one yet, IMO.

And for those reading this, he was correct about making the call with 87s, believe it or not. First I asked him if he was sober (he was) then I asked if had been winning previously (he was), so that ruled the tilt monkey call. Turns out that a hand like 87s had about 22% equity in this spot in a variety of similar permutations of hand matchups, and some times closer to 30%.

Now if this boggles your mind and you notice the lights suddenly flickering in your room, then you experienced it too. It just ripped a hole in the fabric of the universe....

Larken said...

Haha you guys are funny!
Great post btw, great blogg, keep up the good work!