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Aces Full of It: Intuition and How it Helps in Poker

February 15th, 2017 by Justin Buchanan

You can imagine me wearing this during this article if it helps. ( Source: lonelyconservative.com)

The following article is rated O for Opinion. While it may be more serious than an Onion article, its purpose is to put forth statements of opinion or conjecture without advancing them as superior to other opinions. Take it or leave it.

For the most part, I tend to approach poker in ways that most people would consider reasonably rational. But, as I’ve said once or twice before, my first rule of life is that there are exceptions to every rule. Quite a while back I put forward what to me was an at least rather logical argument that the concept of “rigging” in online poker may not be as crazy as it seems. Today, I’ll be putting forth another opinion that goes rather against the grain of what most consider to be common sense.

Hunches: Real or Not?

Have you ever had what you might call a “funny feeling” about something? Like you can’t shake the thought that something is going to play out in a certain way¬†or have a certain outcome, but there’s no apparent rational basis for that thought? This is what I believe describes what people call a hunch–a supposition based on intuition rather than facts or proper deductions.

It’s not unusual for people to act on hunches. Nor is it unusual for those hunches to be completely, totally, unequivocally wrong. So basically, “hunches” that use intuition are purely irrational and cannot lead to positive outcomes save through sheer luck, right?

OBJECTION! (Source: aceattorney.com)

I have come to believe that when it comes to hunches, there’s hunches and then there’s hunches. And yes I know that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. To try and explain this, what I have for you is an anecdote from a once-popular crime show. Adrian Monk, the titular star of the show Monk, is a savant detective, making deductions that often go against the grain of police opinion and would make Sherlock Holmes smile and nod his head in approval. In a few episodes of the show, there are instances in which Monk knows, really knows, whodunit, but the problem is he doesn’t know WHY he knows. Those episodes then revolve around attempts to gain actual evidence against said suspect, as well as Monk trying to figure out just what tipped him off.

See where I’m going with this yet? Sometimes, the subconscious mind notices things, and even puts things together, that the conscious mind doesn’t. But because we’ve only noticed and/or figured these things out subconsciously, we’re not aware of our own knowledge enough to rationally deduce the conclusion from the facts. So instead, the conclusion manifests itself as a hunch–it does have a rational basis, that basis is simply not one we are fully aware of.

Of course, irrational hunches happen too–in many cases far more often than rational ones. But this brings us back at last to poker, where this blog belongs.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program. (Source: mathcelebrity.com)

Poker Intuition

Information is king in poker. The more information you can have about what the other players have in any given hand, the better your chance to win said hand, or to correctly get the hell out of dodge in a hopeless situation. But most games are played against eight or nine other players at the same time. Not only that, but with some leaving the table out and others coming in quite frequently, in both cash game AND tournament play. The amount of information presented over a session just 1 or two hours in can easily overwhelm the average or even above-average conscious mind and make parsing through it to determine what facts are relevant to the situation at hand nigh impossible, even in 6-max games where you’re worrying about a comparatively lesser five opponents at once.

However, with practice and experience, one’s subconscious mind can very well be another story. Don’t rely on such hunches if you’re relatively new to the game. But every once in a while, try following one and see where it leads. Over time, I think you’ll find that the phrase “finely honed intuition” can be more than just empty words.

If you play your cards right.

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