Gut Feelings and Poker

By Justin Gielow
July 18, 2022

This is not an Ex-lax or a Pepto Bismol advertisement, although poker can give you nausea or indigestion. This is about listening to and trusting your gut at the poker table. Should you always trust your gut when involved in a hand? Well, that is the question that people ask themselves when they are sitting at the table. We’ve all been involved in a hand that could cost us our stack or give us a nice double or triple up. Is there a statistical category for gut feeling wins and losses? No! I’m certain many people would clamor for that spreadsheet or poker book.

When Should You Listen to Your Gut?

As a poker player, when should or shouldn’t you listen to your gut? It depends on the situation, of course. Every situation calls for different reads or feelings. If you have the “nuts” there is no reason to listen to that gut. Sit back enjoy those chips being pushed your way. Now, let’s say you have a draw with 10 outs. What is your gut feeling? You could go all in, hopefully getting the opponent to fold. You could bluff, representing an already made hand. Or you could just take a second, close your eyes, take a deep breath and listen to your gut.


Will that gut feeling always be correct? Of course not, but more times than not your feeling will not lead you astray. Just think about how many times that gut call or fold saved you from a mistake or got you a huge win. We rely on that feeling a lot more than we think. We use it when it comes to people, food, jobs, and many crucial decisions in life. The feeling is sometimes too strong to ignore. You’re sitting at the poker table — whether it’s at a brick and mortar venue or perhaps even at a Michigan online casino site — with a hand, and you’re just thinking and thinking what to do in this situation. You could be getting trapped, dragged along, or just outright confused. Hopefully, your gut will give you a hint and you will get a sense whether your hand is good or not.


What is that gut feeling called? Intuition or instinct, of course. Every poker player has some intuition about each player, each hand, each situation. Play 7-2 this rotation instead of the next, bluff with absolutely nothing, try setting a trap for the player who thinks they have the winner. All these situations could be predicated on your intuition resulting from your observation of the table before making these plays. Players can and will mix up their game style throughout the day, but your instinct about how a player has been behaving will always be with you, no matter how much of an expert or novice you are at the table.

It has been said that poker is 80 percent luck and 20 percent skill. While that could very well be true, where does intuition or that gut feeling fit into those percentages? Even the best players in the world would more than likely tell you that there have been instances when they had a strong gut feeling that they were making the correct call or fold. That gut feeling has always been around, and will be around in the future when we must make tough decisions in life. It will always be up to you to listen to those intuitions and to trust your instincts. Do yourself a favor next time you’re at the poker table and are about to make a big decision. Listen to your gut, and go with it!



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Justin Geilow
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Justin Gielow

Justin is in his mid-30s, living in Chandler, Arizona. He’s married with three stepdaughters and plays $1/2 No Limit Hold’em most of the time.

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