The month of March for me was a month of minimal poker play and a great deal of reflection on the game. Over the past few years I have gone from an infrequent player to one that travelled to Las Vegas last year 7 times in order to play for days at a time. During this time I made several thousand dollars in profit, and truly believe stepped my game up to where I am no longer afraid to sit down with anyone and play a poker game at any level within my bankroll.
With all of this success came a continual need to express myself about the game. I write constantly, either for work or for my own pleasure through my personal blog and my magazine/newspaper submissions, so writing is a natural outlet for me. Since I was in a constant learning state concerning poker, it was only natural that my writing would encompass what I was learning in that arena also.
The writing began simply enough at the CNN sports site, Fannation. It was simply a way for me to express my thoughts on the game without worry of what others thought. If someone read what I wrote, I appreciated it; and if someone actually got some good advice from what I wrote, all the better. The problem with that site was that CNN has no poker association at all. A good writer should always write to his audience, and that is very difficult when I was discussing something 99% of the people had no desire to comprehend.
Through the writing there I made associations with several people who were interested in starting a new sports site devoted to only writing. No glossy pictures or fancy stories that went nowhere. Instead, the people at Informative Sports were devoted specifically to plain old sports writing. The way it used to be done, and the way it should still be done. The founders of the site asked me if I would move my poker writing to their site. While my articles there were strongly received by the readers, it was always clear that the other contributors to the site were not supportive of a poker article being part of a “sports site”. While they appreciated the fact that my weekly submissions were consistently #1 in unique clicks, they were not so appreciative of the subject matter.
Then along came The Sports Nickel. When I was originally approached by the owners of the Nickel to write my poker musings here, I was apprehensive about the change. The ownership at Informative Sports had always been good to me, and I am not one to break loyalty on a whim. However, the Nickel offered me something no other site had offered, when they told me that I would have complete control over my submission topics, my deadlines, and even the length. In other words, I can post here whenever and whatever I choose. In the writing world, this is considered nirvana.
Since moving here a few weeks ago, I have noticed one more benefit to this move. My game has improved. Suddenly I’m winning both live and online at a greatly increased pace. I think without the pressure to present some sort of learning situation every week, 52 weeks a year, I have been able to relax and concentrate on the game itself. I believe I am thinking more clearly than ever before at the tables, and making decisions more from instinct and my gut than from anything else. If I’ve learned one thing about my game over the years it is that my gut is far more accurate than pot odds and outs.
So with that, here is my poker lesson for this week. Trust your gut. It is correct far more often than most people think. I remember a hand where I was big blind, and everyone limped to me, where I held a massive 2-4 off-suit. The flop came A-4-7 rainbow, and the small blind immediately bets out. I called, and everyone else folded. After thinking for just a few seconds, I decide that he does not have an Ace, but might have a 7, but I make the call, since I’m not sure. The turn brings a King, and he again bets out the exact same amount as before. I think again, and decide that at best he’s holding a 7, but I no longer feel that is even the case. So I minraise, just to see where I’m at. And he…..calls. Now, quite honestly, I no longer feel he has anything better than my pair of 4’s.
I originally plan to make a big move on the river, but decide that it is completely possible that anything he’s holding could hit, and most any of it would beat me. So instead I decide to just call, and force him to show his hand before I reveal mine. The river came a complete blank in my mind, but he once again fired about a half-pot sized bet. I insta-called and turned to look at him. He laughed and said “you’ve got me”, but didn’t muck his cards. I guess he was waiting for me to reveal mine. I held them in front of me and waited on him, and he finally turned over 3-3. Only then did I reveal that I had called him to the river, and even reraised him, with a pair of 4’s with a 2 kicker.
The best comment I heard from the rest of the table was “What the hell just happened?” While on the surface it might appear to be a valid question, if you consider my read on the hand then you can see that it really wasn’t that surprising at all. He was bluffing, hoping I had nothing; and I was calling him down with the absolute belief that my hand was the winner. In other words, we were playing poker. I didn’t get lucky and call with a bad pair. I called with a bad pair because I believed it was the winning pair.
So trust your gut. Believe in your instincts. When you’re wrong, make a note and reevaluate what led you to your conclusions. When you’re right, make a note and figure out what led you to your conclusions. Pot odds, hand odds, outs, stack sizes, and everything else you’ve learned are important, but so is your gut instinct. Don’t ignore it.