Poker's Sixth Sense: Does it Exist?

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Poker players often make calls or folds that are in direct opposition to logic.

All signs point to a player having a certain hand, or range of hands, but a player just feels like something isn’t right and it overrides rational thought.

“I definitely believe in a sixth sense to fold or call,” American pro Eddy Sabat said.

“There are times when you look at the player you can feel his energy and sometimes you could make a fold that doesn’t make sense long term, but it’s the right play in that very moment.”

Australian WSOP bracelet winner Jackie Glazier shares a similar sentiment.

“There is definitely a sort of sixth sense in poker,” Glazier said. “Sometimes my head gets in the way, but generally, I think, intuition is a very big part of the game.”

Eddy Sabat
Eddy Sabat

Glazier used the word intuition to describe what some people might call a sixth sense and that’s where two-time bracelet winner Brian Rast likes to clarify the two terms.

Trusting Your Instincts

“I think when you are really on your game, people like to call it sixth sense, but it’s more your intuition has already figured something out,” Rast said.

“As great as it is to break down hands with ranges and everything, the truth is that a guy does only have one particular hand, and sometimes there is a lot of little things like how someone bet, exactly how much they bet that your intuition will be tuned into.”

It seems that many professionals agree there is some form of intuition or sixth sense in poker.

At the very least some players are cited as having a great ‘feel’ for the game, even though they might not know all the theories and mathematics behind certain concepts.

Jackie Glazier
Jackie Glazier

If people can work on breaking down hands into ranges and work out pot odds and percentages behind correct calls, then is it possible to also work on your intuition game?

“Something like this I do think comes with age, so maybe I’m better with that stuff because I’m getting old!” Glazier said.

“It comes after playing poker for a long time,” Rast adds.

“You start to instinctively take that other stuff into account and you can make a better decision based on little things like how someone bets, which can sometimes work better than essentially guessing a hand range.”

Intuition In Online Poker

It could be argued that this aspect of the game is what separates live poker from online poker.

“That sixth sense is the main difference between live and online poker,” Sabat said. “I haven’t played online in ages, but it’s robotic. You could probably have a computer play for you online and it’s already getting kind of like that with HUDs and stuff.”

Brian Rast
Brian Rast

Rast, on the other hand, believes a similar kind of intuition can be felt when playing online.

“For sure internet players can have the same thing,” Rast said. “It’s less strong and I do think online players are more careful about that sort of thing than live players.”

“I used to get it sometimes when playing online and I’m sure people still do. It’s definitely less often and harder to know when to trust it, but it can be there.”

Rast’s thoughts behind instinct, intuition or a “sixth sense” isn’t exclusive to poker and maybe that’s why he believes it can be felt in both live and online poker.

“I’ve read a really interesting book about this called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell,” Rast said.

“It’s not about poker, it’s about experts in their field and how often their intuition tells them the answer before their logic or reason does.”

Perhaps it is intuition that makes poker so accessible to recreational players.

Even if you don’t know the most about the game, or don’t understand any theoretical concepts behind poker, or even struggle to do simple mathematics, there is always the chance your gut feeling will help you navigate through a tournament and make the right decisions in those crucial moments.

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