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Daniel Negreanu Tip of the Week

Go With Your Gut

This tip may end up being the most valuable tip I could ever share with you.  It's a simple one, but it's extremely effective and powerful.

You'll often find yourself in a situation at the poker table where it simply comes down to: does he have it, or is he bluffing?  All the cards are dealt out and your opponent has made a bet on the river.  You have a marginal hand that could beat a bluff, but couldn't beat a legitimate hand.  For example, let's say the final board looked like this: Js 8c 4s 4h 6c and you hold 8-9.

If your opponent isn't bluffing he surely has your pair of eights beat. Otherwise, he may have anything from a pair of Jacks to a full house that has you beat.  It all comes down to a read.

Now, generally in these situations you go over the hand in your head and ask yourself some important questions:

1. How often does my opponent bluff?
2. If he had a strong hand, would he play it the way he did?
3. Could he have a busted drawing hand?  Would he try to bluff if he had a missed draw?
4. Does he think I was on a draw and is trying to steal the pot with a busted draw himself?
5. Does he look like he's bluffing?

Often, you'll go through that list of questions and come up with a definitive answer as to whether or not you should call your opponent.  If for example, you answered the questions: 1. Rarely 2. Yes 3.Not likely 4. Maybe  5. No, then that would all add up to an easy fold.

It's not always going to be that easy though.  Sometimes you'll go through that list of questions and still have no idea what to do.  I've been in that spot many, many times and I'm sure you have too.

So what should you do in this situation?  Go with your first instinct. Think back to the very first thought that came to you and go with it. That instinct comes from the most powerful computer in the world- your subconscious mind.

The more often you trust in your subconscious the better you'll become at reading people.  Practice makes perfect.  If you approach every poker hand scientifically, going over the pot odds, calculating the odds of your opponent having a certain hand, etc. you may miss out on an important message being delivered to you from your subconscious mind.  It's often described as "feel" and all of the truly great poker players have it.

When making a poker decision you should still always go over the facts of the hand.  Backtrack the betting, past behavior, your opponent's current emotional state, figure out the math, etc.  Do everything you can to solve the puzzle on your own, but when all else fails, it's time to rely on your instincts.