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Reads vs. Hopes: Poker Feelings
A frequent occurrence at poker tables: someone makes a ludicrous call to suck out for a big pot, and justifies it by saying "I had a feeling."
I can't disprove such a statement; it could be legitimate. Obviously the odds show that the call was a mistake. But if every time you have this "feeling" you win, then who am I to tell you not to act on it?
As far as I'm concerned, though, making a statistically bad call based on a feeling is always the wrong play. If you can find someone more in touch with the chi of the world to teach you differently, more power to you.
I've seen many things I can't explain, and I've made many a decision based exclusively on a feeling and seen brilliant results.
At the same time, you'll never see me make this play at a poker table.
Intuition/Reads vs. Hopes
I was lucky to have a lengthy discussion about this topic with PL.com strategy contributor Arthur Reber one day before a local tournament. He had just published an article about it before I brought the topic up with him.
I can't remember exactly who said what in this meeting, so I might be stealing some of his thoughts under the false impression they're my own. If that's the case, well, I'm sorry Arthur.
I'm sure you've read a lot about what tells to look for, what reads you can get, and how to interpret them. The more you play, the more you will get a viable read on someone subliminally. You play enough poker and practice picking up reads enough, and you'll do it without thinking.
Just because you didn't process the information at the forefront of your consciousness doesn't mean it's any less valid. Half the reads the professionals get are of this sort. This is when they make the comment "I just knew he didn't have it."
It is at this point where you have to become your own master. You have to be able to clearly tell the difference between what you have picked up as a read, and what is nothing more than a hope.
I have to admit that I am guilty of confusing the two circumstances. When a pot gets large enough, it's easy to get attached.
A simple example is playing in an active pot with a flush draw. You've both put in the better part of your stack, and at the river you miss your draw.
You have absolutely nothing, and it's blatantly obvious that the other player has a big hand. It is now a huge mistake to put any more money into this pot, but you manage to convince yourself that "Maybe they had a flush draw too, so he'd have to fold if I put out a big bet here."
This is obviously not a read; you have no reason to believe that this is true. In fact, you have many reasons to believe it's blatantly wrong. When you play on a hope, you're almost certainly giving your money away.
Twenty great reads can be negated by acting on one hope. To be a successful long-term poker player, you need to reduce, or completely remove, all hopes from your game.
The only way to fully remove all hopes is to truly not care whether you win or lose the current pot. If you're not worried about the result of that pot, it will allow you to act on your reads, keeping your emotions at bay.
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