Developing Your Poker Sense

Creating “poker sense” can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here’s four ways to get better.

Math and psychology are important components in the game of poker, to be sure, but there’s also pure instinct, that ineffable quality that helps separate good poker players from the truly great. Some say it’s impossible to develop instinct at the table and that you’re either born with it or you’re not, just like perfect pitch. I’ve found there are things every player can do to help create at least a close proximity of Poker Sense.

Get Some Experience

The single best thing you can do to generate a good “base layer” for your Poker Sense is to play a lot of hands of poker, and I mean a lot. No book or article on poker (not even this one) is going to improve your game immediately, but by playing lots of hands of poker, you’ll be competing with a broader variety of opponents and the same scenarios time and time again. The best poker players use their experience on a subliminal experience to make decisions at the spur of the moment.

Stop Using the Checkboxes

Those little checkboxes that every online poker room offers to speed up the game can greatly impede your ability to develop poker sense. By taking a moment and making a conscious effort to get all the information that is possible from every position at the table, you can build a mental map of how to act against each and very raise, check and fold that occurs before (and after) your position. Instinct involves learning to make decisions quickly and by taking the extra second to actually press the button, you’re helping yourself later down the way. That said, I always use the “Fold” checkbox when I’m dealt garbage.

Learn To Concentrate After You’re Out

Even if it’s a good idea to do so, it can be really tough to keep your mind on a hand that you’re not playing in, particularly when you play online poker. It’s just natural to have your mind wander when you’re no longer invested in a hand, but you should think of the rest of a hand as a free chance to gauge the other players and tenor of the table. When you catch your mind wandering and you’re catching up on Facebook and Twitter instead of observing, snap yourself back into the game. Personally, I’ve found that listening to instrumental music helps quite a bit as I’ve got something that gives the back of my brain something to do without forcing all my concentration away from the action.

Finally, Relax

Even if you’re concentrating and making decisions, learn to unclench a bit when you’re playing. Take a short break away from the game every hour or so if possible. By giving your mind time to mull over what’s occurred at the tables as it’s happening (even if you’re unaware of this happening,) you can more quickly absorb the data and create a workable Poker Sense.