Do you ever get that feeling that you know exactly what you should do in a hand? Call it intuition or whatever else you want. I call it “trusting your gut,” and few things are as important in poker.

Trusting anything is a tough thing to do in a game built around deception. Players may be affable and chatty, but each and every one of them is out to take your chips. That’s OK though, because you’re trying to do the same to them. So if you can’t trust others when it comes to poker, whom can you trust? The answer is simple: you.

With enough experience, you develop your reading abilities to both opponents and situations. When it happens, you’ll have moments of clairvoyance when you know exactly what’s transpiring. Case in point: the first event of the 2013 World Series of Poker, the $500 casino employees no-limit hold ‘em championship. Nine of us had just reached the final table, and it was gut-check time.

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After a short-stacked player had fallen on the first hand, the blinds increased to 6,000-12,000 with a 2,000 ante. Action folded to a young, red-haired gentleman on the button named Michael Trivett. I hadn’t played with him up to that point, but standard poker strategy indicated a raise was coming. Indeed, he made it 27,000.

I then looked down at Ah 8s in the small blind — not a particularly strong hand, but I knew my opponent would have raised any two cards on the button. I didn’t want to waste an ace, so I promptly three-bet to 77,000. The big blind folded, and then Trivett announced that he was all in for around 200,000 more.

Despite having no history with Trivett, my gut began screaming at me. Does he actually have a big hand? If so, why go for the kill here? He was in position, so why not flat-call and try to get more chips on the flop? These questions were running through my mind, and my gut delivered the answer. It was because he didn’t have a strong hand, at least not as strong as mine.

Even though my gut was telling me I was ahead, it wasn’t an easy spot to put in my chips Even if I called, he could get lucky and I’d be out in eighth place. Then again, I had approximately a third of my stack in the pot already. What to do?

As doubt began to creep into my mind, I made the tough decision. I thought to myself: “If you can’t trust your gut and go with it, you have no shot of winning this tournament.” With that, I slid forward chips to signify a call, and I was right. Trivett held the Kh Js, meaning I was about a 57 percent favorite to win.

The board ran out Ac 7d 2s 7h Ks, and I managed to win a hefty pot. I went on to win the tournament for $84,915 and my first WSOP gold bracelet. I could have easily lost that hand, but I went with my gut, made the call and won. I believe it struck fear in my opponents — one of whom remarked, “I didn’t think he had it in him” — and I know it gave me enough self-confidence to close it out. Trust me: You must trust your gut.

Chad Holloway is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and senior news editor for and Follow him on Twitter: @ChadAHolloway.

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