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Card Memory and Analysis

There is less of the drudgery of counting and memory in poker than in other card games of skill, but unfortunately you will need some counting and memory even in poker. If you aren't capable of it you can still be a pretty good player but you won't be a master player.

In stud poker, memory of cards is important. In draw poker, you don't have to remember many cards but you do have to analyze the special values of certain cards. In both games, you have to both remember and analyze certain things that your opponents have done. I will take these up one by one.

Memory in stud poker. The stud player simply has to remember what cards have shown and have been folded. Otherwise he won't know the chances that a particular opponent has a particular hole card. Also, he won't know his own chance of improving.

I will give you an oversimplified example. Maybe it wouldn't happen more than once in a hundred years, but related cases happen every day. You have four of a kind. Your opponent shows 10-8-7-6, all hearts. If you don't know or don't remember that the nine of hearts showed and folded in another player's hand, you don't know you have a cinch hand. And, as a noted card authority once remarked, "You can't remember a card you didn't see." So you have to watch everything and remember everything. I will explain the practical application of this when I discuss stud poker.

Analysis in draw poker. From the cards in your own hand you can often draw conclusions about opposing hands. Suppose you stay against a player who opened, only the two of you in the pot. He draws three cards. You draw three cards to Q-Q-A-K-6. You make three queens. He bets, you raise; he probably had you beaten with aces or kings going in, but your holding of the ace and king reduced his chance of making three of a kind in either rank and he probably bet on two pair. If your hand had been Q-Q-8-5-3, you might have called instead of raising.

Watching the opponents' play. This is a special knack for some players, as I said in the section on Psychology, but every player can cultivate the knack if he does so consciously. You must deliberately say to yourself (silently, of course), "Joe stayed against a showing ace when he had a six down and a jack up,"
or, "Joe stayed against two opponents when he had a pair of sixes." If you don't notice and analyze this information consciously, you are far less likely to remember it.

In this connection, it is a good idea to insist on one of the universal laws of poker: That every hand in the showdown, whether it wins or loses, must be shown. Though this is a universal rule, it is more honored in the breach than in the observance. In 99% of all cases, one player will say, "Kings up," and flash his hand briefly; the other will say, "That's good," and throw his hand away without showing it. I admit that you will profit from doing the same when it is your hand that would have to be shown; but when it is somebody else's hand, you can legally ask to see it and in most games you won't make yourself unpopular by doing so—especially if you pretend that you're just curious.

As I said before, I will have much more to say on the subject of card memory and analysis when I discuss the particular games, which I will now take up one by one.

 
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