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9: Tapping Your Intuition

As I wrap up this series I thought it would be nice to leave you on a high note and talk about something more aspirational, rather than another problem to solve.

Intuition, or your “gut instinct”, has the potential to be another component of your edge, allowing you to unlock your highest level of decision-making, innovation, and ability to make critical, and sometimes split-second, decisions that impact your bottom line. It allows you to cut through the noise and self-doubt to notice, for example, that something “doesn’t look right” with a prediction from your model.

Intuition is a strong feeling, sense, or thought about the right decision, but you can’t fully explain why that decision is right. This is the mental equivalent of a goalie in football making a split-second adjustment to save a shot, or a tennis player picking a lethal moment to hit a drop shot.

Being able to act on your intuition means you know when it’s more likely to be right or wrong. Having that knowledge is powerful and lucrative. But intuition is a topic that is widely misunderstood, which often leads punters to go against it, to their own detriment. Let’s try to change that. But, first, I have a warning for newer punters.

Intuition relies on a strong base of knowledge in punting to be accurate. It comes from years of experience and is not something that you just pull out of thin air. So as a new punter your intuitive sense is much less likely to be accurate. I strongly advise that you're cautious about using any innovation or decisions that rely on intuition until you’ve gained more experience.

Why Is Intuition Hard to Trust?

Many experienced punters who are able to generate reliable intuition have a hard time trusting it. Why is that? One common reason is that they don’t know what the hell it is! Your goals, livelihood and confidence are on the line, so why would you trust something you don’t understand?

Also, emotions can masquerade as intuition and there have been times when you put trust where it doesn’t belong. Emotions like fear, anger and overconfidence can make it appear like your rash and impulsive decisions are based on intuition, when they aren’t. These emotions create a false version of intuition that feels right and justified, but really it is the mind’s way of getting what it wants – not allowing a profitable model to run for fear of losing or letting a model that you know isn’t profitable run in the hope that it will win.

To trust your intuition means you’re relying on a feeling or a sense of what’s right. When fear, anger and overconfidence are mixed in, your sense of what’s correct has been altered by these emotions. You get creative, feel justified in your rationale, and seek confirmation from like-minded peers who don’t challenge your perspective. Your aggressiveness or second-guessing is not the byproduct of a sixth sense that allows you to spot opportunities that others can’t see. The opposite is true—you’re flying blind and out of touch with what makes your model profitable.

Generating and Using Intuition

Understanding intuition is nice, but it’s not the same as unlocking the potential that intuition can have in your punting. Imagine consistently and accurately using intuition. You’d be open to new opportunities, able to quickly assess opportunities outside your normal scope, and could more easily adapt to an ever-changing competitive landscape.

The key to accessing intuition is being in the zone. When you’re in the zone, you’re more likely to generate intuition that you can actually trust, which means your goal should be to get in the zone more often.

Reaching the peak of your mental performance is something that typically happens randomly (or at least appears to be random), but it doesn’t have to be that way. The zone is predictable once you understand the conditions and factors that produce it for you. This is why I created a worksheet called the Zone Profile, to help you organize all the important details that will help you get into the zone more often. You can download it here.

The most important feature of the zone is energy. You simply cannot get there without the right amount of energy. This is true in a mentally demanding endeavor like punting, just as it is in a physically demanding sport such as basketball. If your level of energy is too high or too low, you can perform well, but you won’t be able to reach the zone. The key to getting in the zone consistently is determining what the “right” amount of energy is for you. If you’re unsure, try writing a description of what it’s like when you’re in the zone. Describe the quality of your focus, how you make decisions, and your perception of time—does it speed up or slow down? Taken together, you’ll start to form a profile of what the zone is like for you.

Once you’re clear on what the zone looks like for you, create a routine that incorporates the key factors that get you there. When you get into the zone more frequently as a result of your routine, a causal relationship grows between them. When this association becomes strong enough, you’ll begin to anticipate getting in the zone just by starting your routine, even when your energy isn’t ideal.

Having a structured routine is important to get you so focused that it’s like your mind is in a bubble where nothing can distract you. Here are some key elements of a routine:

  • Reading your goals to get you motivated and focused
  • When you’re finished working, take notes about mistakes, thoughts on your model, work you want to do tomorrow, or anything else on your mind
  • Take time away from technology, or any other input, to allow your mind to relax and digest the information you’ve been focused on

Taken together these steps will help you to be more focused when you work, and help your mind to remain clear day after day. Clarity of mind is a key element of getting in the zone and accessing intuition. When you’ve got too much on your mind, you don’t leave room for intuition.

Another thing you can do is narrow the gap between your A-game and C-game. Going back to part VII where I talked about The Inchworm Concept, when your Inchworm is stretched out too wide, the mind has too much to think about and that prevents you from regularly getting into the zone and accessing intuition. When that gap is narrow, your mind is clearer because there are fewer things you have to consider and intuition comes more easily. Make sure to be regularly focused on improving your B and C-game. This is a nice balance to your focus on the zone, where getting there is your top priority, but when that’s not possible, your job is to push your B and C-game higher.

Getting into the zone and accessing Intuition is a peak of your mental capacity. It’s an exciting and, likely, profitable place to reach. To get there takes work, but you’ll get a sense of pride and accomplishment that can only come from reaching your potential.

Jared Tendler, MS is a mental game coach for world champion poker players, PGA Tour players, sports bettors and financial traders from 45 countries. He is the author of three highly acclaimed books, The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2 and his newest book The Mental Game of Trading. Find out more about Jared’s work at: