This poker theory is quite simple. In the book, Sklansky states:
“Every time you play a hand differently than if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they win; and every time you play your hand the way you would play it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time your opponents play their hands differently than if they could see all of your cards, you win; and every time they play their hands the way they would if they could see all your cards, you lose.”
But what does this mean?
This means that if you could see all the cards, you could play a “perfect” poker game knowing exactly when to bet, raise, check or fold.
Of course, the whole point of poker is that you can’t see all the cards. Sklansky says you should use the tools at your disposal to “see” the cards without actually seeing them, and not just consider your hand and the cards on the table when making important decisions. You can develop this skill by learning catch “tells” of your opponent, see behind their well-rehearsed “pokerface” and analyze their unique betting patterns. This would mean that you would be playing as close as if you could clearly see all of your opponents cards in front of you.
Let’s look at an example to better understand how this fundamental theory works.
Imagine that you are playing head-to-head with another player in a $1/$2 no-limit game and both of you have $200 stacks.
Your hand consists of a jack of diamonds and a jack of clubs. Your opponent’s hand consists of 9 of spades and 8 of hearts. On the felt are the ace of spades, the jack of hearts and the two of clubs.
According to the fundamental theory, you can see your opponent’s cards just like you can see your own.
The game begins and it’s your opponent’s turn to act. They decide to bet $20 into the pot for $20 on the flop. The focus shifts to you and you realize that you have the best hand. Obviously your opponent is bluffing, so calling is ideal. You can also raise, but this will most likely mean that your opponent will have no choice but to fold in the next round. By calling, you give them the opportunity to continue bluffing and adding more money to the pot, thereby increasing the value of your game.
But what if your opponent has a deuce of hearts and an ace of diamonds, making two pair? In this scenario, you can be confident enough that your opponent will feel confident enough in his cards to call a raise. In this case, your best bet would be to raise, which again results in the most profitable game.