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Feel player vs. Math player: Which poker player is better?

Written by Jason Frakk. Last updated on

This is a big topic to cover.

Feel and math players are two sides of a coin and trying to discuss which is better is always going to open a can of worms.

This is like the age-old question in sports; which works better?

A natural born talent or someone who puts in hours of practice over a period?

It never is going to be easy to find out which style of playing works better.

It probably depends on the kind of player you are; everyone does pick up a particular style over various games.

People who are better with numbers and math are going to prefer the numbers game while people who rely on gut feelings would become feel players.

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What is the difference?

The Mathematics of Poker

Firstly, the difference between a feel and math player is rather significant.

A feel player wants to be at the table, soak in the atmosphere and uses his gut instinct to decide on the fly.

This is almost like gaining experience by playing at the table, win or lose, these players understand when to raise a bet, call or go all in depending on what their gut says.

This player would look at what the opponent is doing and then would try to work out patterns before making his or her move.

Math players don’t go with their gut feeling or instinct, they see every hand of poker as a math problem and try to solve it using numbers, like that show with David Krumholtz.

Math players’ decisions are all based on numbers; the player will not look at any signs from other players.

No amount of tells will flag him, the math player will only look at the pot odds and what does he have in his hand and make a move.

Calculations are all that a math player uses; everything else is out of the window.

Which style works well in which game?

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Traditionally speaking, feel players should do better at actual poker tournaments while math players should make a killing on online poker tournaments.

The fact of playing live with many human players on a real table is the best way for a feel player to win hands.

A feel player will make his or her decisions based on what is going on at the moment, gut feel and experience from similar positions is something they bring to the table.

Feel players should do well in games which do not have a limit.

With no limit being put on a game, this leads to more psychological pressure on players, and this is where feel players should make a killing.

Feel players all follow their gut instinct so seeing other players in pressure would help feel players as the opponents would provide tell-tale signs of being under stress or having problems.

This is where a feel player can make a difference compared to a math player.

In the online version of the game, you do not have to worry about what is going on in the immediate area around you.

Playing in the comfort of your home may not work well with feel players, but math players will shine playing online games.

Mainly thanks to the plethora of online programs available to help you calculate odds, a math player will be able to calculate what the odds are of him winning the hand and then make his decisions.

A math player should often play games which have a limit, in limit games math is the way to go.

Simply put, the size of the bet is also limited and a math player will be able to be able to calculate odds at the table accurately and you would be able to make decisions based on that.

There is less psychological pressure on a math player in limit games since it is very rare for someone to bet all their chips in one hand and lose it all.

So this game is all set for math players to do well in.

Which style is the best?


This is something which would be hard to answer, just like two sides of a coin, you cannot have only one style of play dictating.

Math players cannot succeed only by relying on numbers and feel players cannot solely rely on their gut feel. A good poker player should inculcate both styles into their game to have a proper chance of winning games.

The math part can be learned from a certain point of time, learning the bet sizes, pot odds and other numerical aspects of the game can be mugged up.

You can read a ton of books or check out online articles or check out forums to get all this information.

Getting a ‘feel’ for the game is much harder to do, there is nothing like playing a game of poker live.

Every game that you do play helps you learn a bit more and provides you with invaluable experience.

The more time you spend at a poker table or in a tournament, the better, you will become, and you will learn how to deal with certain situations as well.

This is where; after you have got a proper feel for the game, you can bring in the number aspect of the game.

Playing in many games, you can slowly bring in the calculation part of the game and then make decisions to help you in winning hands and games.

A player who uses a combination of both math and feel can actually use both the facets of playing in making the right decisions.

No one style can help you win almost every game, only a combination of the two can lead you to poker glory and of course practice.

There is nothing out there that can help you out in this harsh world of poker than practicing the game, remember the more hours you put in, the better you will become at this game.

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