Excerpted from Unleash Your Hidden Poker Memory: How to Win at Texas Hold’Em by Turning Your Brain into a Poker Tracking Machine by Bennett Onika.
This is not a how-to-play-poker book but a book on how to train yourself to instantly recall vast amounts of information about your opponents and up-cards at the poker table. To my knowledge, no book has been written that combines an awakened powerful memory (which everyone has — yes, even you!) and how to use it to crush your opponents.
Sometimes in a tournament I have almost no information to go on, and all I have is how active the player is. In fact, in 2006 I was fortunate to make it to the end of day four in the main event, and I had the great misfortune of trying to play against one of the finest professional poker players I have ever played against — Jeffrey Lisandro. To give you an idea of how great he really was, he showed down only a few hands, but each time I was dying to know what he actually had. He varied his raises and almost never played the same hand the same way twice. You had no clue where you stood, and if he caught the slightest hint you were weak he’d shove you and put you to the test. If you ever run into a player like Lisandro, this chapter will be invaluable for you. That is why I put so much emphasis on remembering the VPIP in earlier chapters. When that happens, I let the math do the talking and make my decision from there. When I first started to use this technique, I was surprised at how accurate it really was. Of course, there will always be players who wake up with monsters, but most of the time the math will guide you to the correct decision. Again, for a complete record, I have included the easy hands such as Aces. I mean, you don’t have to be a Phil Ivey to figure out if you should call an all-in before the flop with Aces or Kings, but I thought you’d like to have complete odds.
You will likely find it far more useful with hands such as A9 and A8 or mid-pairs such as 99, 88, 77. Knowing the math before you call an all-in might give you up to a 15% extra edge in the hand: the difference between making a great call or a great lay down, allowing you either to chip up or to save chips — both of which are earned chips getting you closer to a tournament win.
Let’s start off by memorizing the complete odds of any two hole cards versus any two random cards. This comes up in tournament situations all the time. However, imagine that you know your odds versus any two random cards before you make the call. You always hear the statement “I am getting 2:1 on my money, and I am very rarely more than a 2:1 dog,” the proverbial math call. After you put the table below into your memory, you’ll be able to calculate closer calls than you ever have. Now let’s take a look at part of the table you will find in my book for heads-up win percentages against any two random cards. It should be noted that the numbers below reflect your win rate percentage if your opponent is playing 100% of the available hand range. If your opponent is tighter, these numbers do not apply. The numbers are derived from PokerStove.
I have created a simple system for you to calculate in your head the exact odds within one or two percentage points of any two hole cards you are dealt and their win rate heads-up versus any two random cards. Let’s start with the pocket pairs. AA is 85%, and 22 is 50%. If you look at the table above, you’ll notice that the percentage drops by almost three percent when you start at AA and move down to 22.
So really you have to remember only one number. AA has an 85% win rate against any two random hole cards with a 100% range. If you want to figure out 77, simply count down from AA to 77 (don’t count AA as one, count KK as one) and multiply by three percent; then subtract from 85%. So KK is one, QQ is two, and so on until you reach 77, which is seven. Seven times three percent is 21%; simply subtract 21% from 85% and you have your answer: 64%. The actual win rate is 66%, not exact, but do we really are about two percent? You could also count up from 50% and add 15%, which would give you 65%, also very close to the actual number and more than enough information for you in 30 seconds or less at the table. Not only that, but do you think your opponent knows within two percent what her odds are? I doubt it. It’s a monster edge.
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