Learn how to win the odds

Although many people think that Texas Hold’em is a game of pure chance, this is not exactly true. Of course, there is luck at the table but this game also requires a lot of skills and a lot of knowledge. Knowing the mathematics behind the game is also a necessity. You should be familiar with things like hand odds, pot odds and outs in order to learn how to become a good player.

In our previous articles we have discussed about the starting hands, the importance of position and the psychological aspect of poker such as bluffing. In this article we’ll pay more attention to the odds and how they determine the way you play.

In poker, the probability of something to happen versus how much you’ll get if it happens is the base of all gambling theories. This probability is called odds. The odds help you to make the right decision and every player should know the number of cards that may improve his hand. These cards are called outs.

The calculation of hand odds is based on the fact that there are 52 cards in the deck. For instance, if your pocket cards are 10 and J and the flop is: 3, 9, Q, you have an open ended straight since 8 or K can improve your hand and you can form a straight. Now you know 5 of the cards in the deck – your 2 cards and the 3 cards of the flop. The remaining cards are 47. In these 47 cards there are 8 cards (outs) that may improve your hand – four 8s and four Ks. The probability one of them to revealed on the turn is about 17 per cent.

In case the turn isn’t 8 or K, the remaining cards now are 46. That means that the probability is 8 : 46 which is 12.5 % chance to get one of these cards on the river.

The same calculation can be made with flush draws. We know that each suit consists of 13 cards. If you have 9 and A of diamonds and there are 2 more diamonds on the flop, the remaining diamonds are 9. The probability to get one of them on the turn is about 19 percent. If you don’t get it on the turn, the probability to get it on the river is 1/5.

Of course, you cannot know the cards of your opponents and there is always a possibility that they may have one or more of the cards you need to form your straight or flush. Therefore, you can calculate the odds knowing only the community cards and your pocket cards.

The other odds you need to calculate are called pot odds. The pot odds are the size of the pot compared to the amount you need to put in, in order to stay in the game. If you’re your probability of winning is lower than the ratio of the amount in the pot to your bet, you have bad pot odds. If it is better, your pot odds are good.

For instance, if you have the above mentioned open ended straight, you play $5/$10 game, the pot is $190 and your opponent bets $10, you need to call $10 as well in order to stay in the game. Since the pot after your opponent betting is already $200, the pot odds are $200 : $10 which is 20. The above mentioned straight draw is 8:47 i.e. about 1/6. It is higher than 1/20, so the pot odds are good and you should call.

The situation with the above mentioned 4 card flush would be: If the game is $5/$10, the pot is $90 and the opponent before you places a bet of $10, the pot becomes $100. We already know that the flush has 9 outs and about 19 per cent probability i.e. the chance to get the same suit is 1/5. But since it is higher than the ratio of 10/100, so you should call again.

Of course, there are more combinations than straights and flushes in poker. The pocket pair against two overs are also a common case, for instance, a pair of 7s against A-K. The pocket pair usually has 54-46 % advantage. If you break it down, the opponent with A-K has 6 outs and there is a probability for him to form a higher pair or even a straight.

A suited Q-J has more advantage than a pocket pair of 7s or lower since these pairs have nothing to do with the ability the player with Q-J to form a straight. The chances of an overpair (pocket pair higher than the community cards, any of them) versus lower one (for example, A-A against K-K) are 80% to 20 %.

However, calculating the hand odds and the pot odds is mathematical aspect of the game. Some players do not count on it and prefer the psychological one i.e. patterns, reading the opponent etc. If you are really interested, you can get more info online or read some poker books and magazines and then make your choice. Of course, which strategy you are going to choose is entirely up to you. But anyway, good luck to you!

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