It is old advice but good advice that bears repeating – trust your in‐ stincts. Do not entirely play on your instincts though, trust them but also logically and consciously think through hands. A lot of the time in a hand you will not have the time or the wherewithal to logically and consciously think through it. Instincts are your subconscious telling you what to do in a given situation given all you’ve already learned in poker. Try not to get flustered in a hand – calm down, think through the hand as best you can to consciously reason through the best play, balance that with what your instincts tell you to do, and then act. After the poker session is over run through the hands in your head and fully figure out how you should have played them.
For example, playing $25/$50 live at the Bellagio, UTG who is a bad player straddles to $100, I raise in EP to $300 with 8‐8, and the next player to act is Lee Marcault who calls and so does UTG (who will almost always call there). This is a good spot to bet the flop every time with nothing (and if your hand is big enough, do the con‐ verse – check and trap). The reason is the straddle inflates the pot so it is big and my flop bet will be big. Additionally I’m in EP so I get more credit for a big hand. And finally I’m betting into a three‐way pot which is stronger than a continuation bet into a heads‐up pot . Or at least that’s what it looks like at first glance. However, in actu‐ ality I know UTG called pre‐flop so he’s weak and folding the flop almost all the time. So add these factors together and a flop bet takes it down most of the time. Since that is true, if this situation arose and I had a strong hand on the flop, though the specifics of the flop and my hand would be the deciding factor, I’d strongly consider check‐ ing and trapping.
Then the flop was dealt, 7♦‐7♥‐4♦. With a hand like 8‐8 it’s not strong enough to induce bluffs here for a few reasons. Lee is a good player so I don’t want to be playing with fire and getting into marginal pots out of position vs. him. If I check and he bets there’s a good chance he just has me beat with a higher pocket pair, and if he doesn’t have me beat now he and UTG can have a lot of overcards to outdraw me. So I bet out $700 into the $975 pot. Lee calls and UTG folds. The turn comes a 7. Now Lee’s a good player, so I’m going to tread cautiously and give him respect because he has position and has called two
bets of mine already. He is not loose, passive or weak, so if I bet the turn he is not going to call me and then let me win the pot with a marginal hand like 8‐8 – he will bluff‐raise me, raise me with a bet‐ ter hand, or just fold so a bet doesn’t gain much for me here (unless I’m prepared to bet and call a raise). So I check and he checks. The river is an ace – not a good card for me, obviously. I check and he bets $1,500. My instincts tell me if I call I’m going to be shipping my cards into the muck. I try to reason it through though and come up with rationalizations to call like maybe he is making the bet with a lower pocket pair like 2‐2 – 6‐6 and trying to use the ace as a scare card to bluff me off my higher pocket pair. Also there are only a few ace high flush draws he could have.
So I call and get shown A♦-10♦. After reasoning it out more fully (again, it’s hard to do this during a hand) it is a clear fold. First of all, taking a made weak hand like 2‐2 – 6‐6 and using the ace on the river to bluff is a fairly advanced play. Most people will just take that free showdown. It means Lee needs to have a really good read on me, namely that I have exactly 88‐K‐K. Also this brings up an‐ other point – my play is totally consistent with A‐10 – A‐K. With A‐10 – A‐K I could have bet the flop as a semi‐bluff to not let myself get bluffed out, given up on the turn, and then on the river if I hit an ace I’d be pretty sure he’s not calling and my only chance is to in‐ duce a bluff. So basically he’s going to have a harder time represent‐ ing that pair of aces if there’s a decent chance I in fact have the aces myself. Furthermore with 2‐2 – 6‐6 Lee is actually probably going to be folding on the flop because of all the reasons I listed above about how strong I look. It is true Lee could have a flush draw without an ace so my play is not totally without value but in this case I should have trusted my instincts and not let faulty rationalizations and quick thinking let me get trapped for a $1,500 bet.