Calculating odds in poker

How to calculate odds in Texas Holdem Poker

Calculating odds might feel hard at first, but it is actually quite easy. You just need to learn a few basic things about outs and pot-odds to take these skills into a live table!

Being able to analyze probability and calculate odds is very important for being succesful Hold’em player. Every event in a Texas Hold’em game has its own probability. Whether it is a probability of getting a straight or a flush, over card, or match for the pocket pair you have – the probability can always be determined and used to make the best decision. The importance of probability is especially great when it comes to online games, since without almost no way to read your opponents, the probability is practically the only thing you can relly on when deciding whether you are goingt to fold, call, or raise; as well as bluff of perform any other action. Surprisingly, regardless of the level you are going to play on, you will almost always encounter players who do not know (or even do not try) to determine the pot odds and adjust they play accordingly. You cannot allow yourself to be one of those players, since that kind of approach to Texas Hold’em guarantees big losses on the long run.

Making it math!

Outs are cards inside the deck that can help you make the hand. It is a matter of simple maths – just plain division. The number of your outs is the numerator (the top number), whereas the number of cards in the deck that haven’t been seen yet is the denumerator (the bottom number). The result of this division (multiplied by 100) is the chance (in percent) of getting one of the outs you need. In practice, the bottom number (the number of cards in the deck that haven’t been seen yet) will be 50, 47, and 46 (pre-flop, after the flop, and after the turn respectively). So your maths will come down to dividing smaller numbers by 46, 47, or 50.

Determining the pot odds follows the same basic principle as determining the outs. It is all about making a comparison between your chance to win (your outs) and the bet size/pot size ratio. If your winning chance is significantly higher than the bet size/pot size ratio, your pot odds are good; otherwise, they are bad.

Let us take a simple example. You are playing a $10/20 game, holding J10, facing only one opponent after the turn. The board is 3-6-9-Q. You are having a straight draw (outside), and there is just the river left to complete it. K or 8 will make your straight, so your outs are 8/46 (8, since there are four Ks and for 8s that can make your hand; and 46, since there are 46 unseen cards in the deck on the turn). 8/46 is approximately the same as 1/6. Your opponent bets $20. After you call that $20, there is $400 in the pot, which is the amount you might win if there is a K or an 8 on the river. Thus, you would win 20 times the size of your bet ($400/$20). After comparing 1/6 and 1/20, you see that your chance of winning is greater than the bet/pot size ratio – in other words, calling that bet is probably a good choice.

Implied odds

Besides outs and pot odds, you need to understand implied odds as well. Implied odds take other players’ possible actions into consideration, making everything a bit more complicated. We will demonstrate that on the following example. Let us say you are once again in a $10/20 game. On the flop, you hit a four flush. The player next to you bets, but all other players fold. The pot is $100. Your chance of getting a flush on the turn is 9/47 (47, since there are 47 unseen cards in the deck; and 9, since there is 9 cards of the color you need left in the deck – there are 13 of each color in total, and you have seen 4, so there is 9 left). That is 0.191, or 19.1%. To make it simpler, let’s say it is 20%, or 1/5. Now, if you want to call, you need $10, whereas the pot is $100. So you would win $100 for $10 – your bet/pot size ratio is 10/100, or 1/10. Once again, 1/5 is bigger than 1/10, so it is probably good idea to make the call.

However, you need to consider the implied odds. You must assume that your opponent might bet on the turn and river as well. So that means $10, plus another two $20 bets – $50 in total. Your chances of getting flush on the turn or on the river are 35%, which is a little better than 1/3. However, you will need to bet $50 more, for the final pot size of $200. $50/$200 is ¼. 1/3 is higher than ¼, but that is not too big of an advantage. Still, things get even more complicated than that – if you do not get flush on the turn, your chances of getting it on the river are 9/46, which is approximately 1/5. However, it will take a $40 investment to win $200 final pot. So that is also 1/5. If you take potential raises into consideration, things get complicated beyond comprehension! Still, do not let this discourage you – although this sounds (and actually is) quite complicated, everything can be simplified to a great extent, making it rather easy to use in practice, especially after you gain some experience and skills.

Strategy for calculating odds

Among many methods for making calculations easier, the following method is probably the easiest one. You determine the number of your outs, multiply it times two, and then add two. The number you get is an approximate chance (in percent) of making the hand. For instance, let’s say you are having a straight draw (inside). You have 4 outs. 4 times 2 is 8; 8 plus 2 is 10. So you have 10% chance of making your hand. If you remember pot odds, your bet/pot size ratio should be less than 10%. In other words, you should bet at most 10% of the pot size. This isn’t a perfectly accurate method, but it gives rather good results and it is very easy to use. Note that this method takes into consideration only the next card. For instance, if you are calculating the chance of making the hand on the turn, it doesn’t consider the fact that you can still make the hand on the river – it only considers the next card. If you are playing online, you will have access to the variety of online odds calculators. However, do not forget that using them might slow you down during the play, and other players might consider that as a “tell” and try to use it against you.