How to Make Good Decisions

How to Make Good Decisions

We’ve all been there…

Your mind says one thing. Your heart says another.

What do you do? How do you decide which one to trust?

Being a professional poker player has taught me a lot about decision making. Every hand is a new puzzle and I’m constantly torn between math and emotion, reason and intuition.

Check out this weeks video as I dive head first into the inner battle we all face when making decisions, and what is ultimately the most important factor.

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What do you do when faced with a tough choice?
Write to me in a comment below.

See you next week.



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  • Cliff (SageDonkey) May 27, 2014 2:28 pm

    Intuition is often the combined effect of subconscious calculations. You could say that when you arrive at the edge of the pavement/sidewalk every time and never finish just short of it or just over it that this is due to intuition, i.e. subconscious calculations, because we are certainly not consciously calculating the number and/or length of strides we are taking when we walk towards a road to cross it.

    The key therefore to perfect decision making could be as you said to err towards "intuition" but at the same time be aware of, or at least try to calculate, the logical components and processes that have taken place in order for the intuitive thought to come into being.

    In the case of the always arriving exactly at the edge of the road, if we think about the mechanics behind why this happens, I think we can break it down into a combination of our body/mind auto adjusting stride length based on
    visual information of the target where we want to stop, and on the massive experience that our body and mind has of walking very similar previous distances from point A to point B where we just know automatically how many and what length of strides we need to take, without having a choppy short stride as the last one or a longer stride as the last one.

    One equivalent example of the above in poker is where an opponent in a heads up pot donk leads the river after the river is a brick, in a pot that has been passively played or relatively passively played to that point. Sometimes we get the instant feeling that they have hit a set on the end, but probably 8 times out of 10 the donk bet "feels" wrong and subconsciously just doesn't make sense so we can easily call it or even raise them off with worse.

    In the instance where we *don't* get the feeling that the bet makes no sense, how can we explain this? Well again, I believe that we have almost certainly picked up some signals/tells subconsciously. Perhaps through some body language the bettor has emitted or through the speed of the bet, the way they moved the chips in or through some other types of subtle subliminal messages or signs we are picking up. But overall, a combination of all of the aforementioned is us subconsciously making calculations, with these calculations combining into one single end feeling that we call "intuition".

    So I agree, trust our instincts in poker, but also analyse how these instincts have been formed. And the more we can do this the closer will will get to making correct decisions 100% of the time.

    We also I believe need to sometimes take a little more time over decisions. In my most recent live comp where I played well and finished 5th, I played almost perfect for around 16 hours but on the final table I didn't take quite enough time over a key decision which in essence was a choice between a laddering opportunity and forgoing the laddering to gain far more equity in winning the comp. I knew all of the calculations involved, and they were relatively complex. But because I was playing so well an was so completely in the zone I was unable to break out of that zone and take the probably 90 seconds to work through the calculations in detail. Instead I only took about 30 seconds which was not enough time and made the wrong decision.

    When I got home later I ran though all the calculations and confirmed what i already really knew which was that I made the wrong decision at the table, I also realised that the calculations were impossible to make thoroughly in less than 60 seconds.

    So the above is an example where the decision making was and should have been 100% pure maths, but because I was so in the zone I kind of trusted intuition (sub conscious calculations) a little too much. But lesson learned and I will never make that mistake again.

    The monetary cost of it: not too bad, I cashed in 5th for £1360 when up top was £4500, but there was also a Pokerstars UKIPT PLO trophy on offer and the extra kudos that goes with it of course. By choosing ladder I increased my very short term equity in the comp by roughly £200 but having done the calcs in depth, by laddering I really reduced my real equity in the comp by about £200.

    Of course making the right decision would not have guaranteed me top spot but I am still disappointed because I was playing so well and because I was playing at a higher level of thought than the vast majority of my opponents throughout the comp.

    • Alec Torelli May 31, 2014 12:07 pm

      Hi Cliff,

      Thanks for commenting… happy to have you as a reader.

      I really like the analogy between intuitive decisions and walking toward the end of the road. I never thought about it like that before, but it just gives more credence to the idea that intuitively we know what the right decisions is, even if we can't necessarily pinpoint why.

      I guess it's like you said, millions of mini samples of experience help us calculate something perfectly, even if it would otherwise seem complex or intangible.

      Amen on the "spider sense" while playing poker. I notice that personally for me that happens while I'm extremely present, focused and get in the "flow" or "zone" of playing. All thought ceases and I'm just completely present and concentrated. It's a cool feeling.

      Good luck at the tables and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Andy May 27, 2014 10:52 pm

    Awesome post! I am really enjoying your last videos !!

  • Alec Torelli May 28, 2014 11:55 am

    Thanks Andy for letting me know! Cheers man.

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