Liv Boeree: Don't Privilege Your Gut Instincts

3 years ago
Liv Boeree: Don't Privilege Your Gut Instincts
06 May

Big Think – one of the online equivalents to the Victorian salon that cropped up in the wake of TED’s massive success – do a good line in intellectual sound bites, interviewing experts as diverse as Michio Kaku, Dan Dennett and Adam Mansbach (of Go The Fuck to Sleep fame). Their YouTube interviews are normally short and pithy with a focus on having the experts offer up a thoughtful answer to a broad question. 

Most recently, they got Liv Boeree on to talk about decision making in poker and how she goes about analyzing uncertainty, specifically the place of gut instinct in that process. 

Boeree is a highly successful pro with $3,164,748 in live tournament winnings and a EPT championship title from the 2010 San Remo event. So she’s worth a listen, and as a TV presenter on the side, she’s also pretty compelling when talking to camera.

The video focuses on busting the popular idea that gut instinct is powerful (a view given a great deal of credit by popular culture’s misreading of Gladwell’s Blink). Her rule of thumb in poker is to:

"Only fall on my gut instinct if my logical, my slow brain – my system two as it’s sometimes called – hasn’t come to a conclusive answer."

While she does suggest that you do need to work with ‘both your slow brain and your gut,’ the gut really shouldn’t be taking priority.

"Do use it from time to time,’ she says. ‘But it should not be your starting point."

This seems like obvious advice in some ways, but it’s worth reminding oneself every now and again, especially at the table. After all, it’s not so easy in practice to stay intentional hand after hand. Our minds have a tendency to go wandering and while the mind’s away the gut will end up playing the cards for you. 

Boeree’s is a reminder to check in with the slow brain, in the end, it’ll get you where you want to be a lot faster than your gut.

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Jon is a freelance writer and novelist who learned to play poker after watching Rounders in year 9. He has been giving away his beer money at cards ever since. Currently he is based in Bristol where he makes sporadic donations to the occasional live tournament or drunken late night Zoom session. He ...Read more


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