How Professional Gamers Train Intuition & Instinct

For many of you, intuition might feel random, like a stranger who randomly tosses out ideas. This makes it easy to disregard what your intuition is telling you, but this might be a mistake. Knowing when you can trust your intuition is a crucial skill in CS — here's how you can do so

1️⃣ Why is Intuition Important?

Before we can train our intuition first we need to understand where it comes from, and why it's so important.

Intuition allows you to capitalise on opportunities other plays can’t see, and to extract yourself from losing situations. It can guide you into good positions more often and make you more efficient at converting those good positions into round wins.

Think about it the other side — how often have you had a gut instinct, thought better of it, and then learnt after the round that your play would have worked?

These types of players are not as lucky or random as they appear. You might convince yourself that, by resisting your gut instinct, you made the safe and correct decision. In doing so, you rationalise your mistakes, failing to ask yourself how much not trusting your instinct has cost your team.

👶 Even New Players can Take Advantage

Of course, you need a hefty dose of knowledge before your intuition is well-tuned enough for consistent results. But even new players shouldn’t just ignore it because of this fact.

Instead, track how often you are correct while making these intuitive decisions. Stay sceptical in-game — at least while you’re building a decent sample size — and remind yourself to avoid results-based thinking when measuring how good your decisions were.

Did you make a good play, but whiff on your opponent? Or did you make a bad play, and the opponent whiffed on you? In both cases you should record the intention and not the result; if you clearly outplayed your enemy assume your intuition was correct, even if you didn’t get the kill.

2️⃣ Why is Intuition Hard to Trust?

You cannot trust something before you understand it. Intuition is the same.

Pressure is a factor too since it can make you unconfident and timid, exaggerating the risk of you ignoring your intuition or instinct in situations it might have helped you.

This does not mean you should be uncritical when trusting your intuition — sometimes emotions can masquerade as intuition so you need to be careful to avoid putting trust where you shouldn’t.

3️⃣Intuition vs Instinct

Intuition is often used interchangeably with “instinct” and this is actually a mistake. They do share similarities, and the phrase “gut instinct” takes elements from both, but the two phenomena come from completely separate parts of your decision-making processq



Based on knowledge that is so fresh and new you can’t explain it yet

Based on Knowledge that is so well mastered that it comes naturally and you can’t explain it anymore

You see the difference? Another way to understand your intuition is by relating it to:

4️⃣The Zone

You're in The Zone when you’re thinking on a high level with a clear mind. One of the most recognisable features of being in The Zone is your ability to know what the right decision is without being able to explain it. Or in other words, being able to deploy intuition effectively.

From the book Leverage Your Intuition by Jared Tandler.

Being in the zone is all about having access to unconscious data that subtly increases the quality of every micro-decision you make.
Don’t believe me? Check out the Iowa Gambling Task, where scientists proved that there is constant data collection and pattern recognition happening “below the level of our conscious awareness”. This is as applicable to CS:GO as any discipline.

🏏A Bat and a Ball…

An effect of this is that we think understand new data before we fully and consciously understand. Take this puzzle, but trust your first thought, do not try to analyse it:

I bought a bat and a ball for $1.10. The bat cost me $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The first number that came to your mind is probably $0.10. It’s the easy, appealing answer.

One small problem — it's wrong.
The correct answer is $0.05

Even those among you who guessed correctly probably had the figure of $0.10 in mind at some point in your thought process, you just resisted your intuition.

❌ The failure to check

The good news is those of us  who made this mistake — I thought it was $0.10 the first time i saw it too! — are not alone. 50% of students from the USA’s best universities (MIT, Harvard, Princeton) gave the same instinctive answer of $0.10.

The reason our brains do this, according to Daniel Kahneman, is because of “the least effort law”; people who guessed $0.10 did not bother to do the mental maths to check their answer was correct. Nor did they spot the obvious cue of such a seemingly easy question being included in a survey or blog like this.

It’s so remarkable because a quick two second check can save us from an embarrassing mistake, but the majority of people don’t do so.

The mental process that causes this is our emotions leading us to the “easy” answer. It is the type of intuition we need to learn to resist.

🤷 “I just knew”

Compare this to good players being unable to explain a good play. This is actually instinct at play: Their decision was based on knowledge they have perfected so well they cannot explain it anymore.

It’s not that the player doesn’t want to share their decision-making process. They just cannot explain their actions, no matter how hard they try. Which is great for him — but bad for us. So how do we dig deeper, and learn this skill?

🎮🏋️Training your Intuition and Instinct

Spoiler: Yes

First things first, you cannot train your intuition and instinct without understanding the Zone, and how to get yourself into the Zone as often as possible. I detailed how to do so in one of my previous blogposts - HERE

How to consistently play CS:GO at your best level - A guide.

🤖 Free up your brain power

Something this routine helps with is freeing up your mind. Without sounding too spiritual, if you're putting 100% of your brainpower into something there is no room left for your intuition to help you.

One step to free up some brain power is trying to automate as many things as possible in-game. Just look at how many dry runs teams do of their executes before they feel comfortable using them in official high-stakes matches. Another example is communication shortcuts, like having a codeword for certain nade sets or CT crossfire setups.

By doing this, you have enough brain power to focus more on your aim and what is happening in-game, as well as allowing your intuition to chime in. You can do this in your PUGs too, just by practising your nade lineups or entry pathing on prefire maps.

If you lack sufficient focus or brain power, intuitive plays are simply impossible. If you’re struggling to remember a smoke lineup, you are not allowing your brain to subconsciously think about the other team’s rotations or ensuring your crosshair is ready for an opponent.

By automating as much as possible, you will be able to attempt and pull off intuitive plays more often.

🌯 Wrapping up

Now, all that’s left is you trying it in your own game. This might be the type of thing you think you can’t improve at other than just by playing the game. But by recording how successful your intuitive plays are, there will be clear patterns that can help you.

It doesn’t matter how successful you are at first, but keep trying — that’s the only way you will improve.

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