How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Poker Odds

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How to Calculate Poker Odds

Every action you make, hand you play or bet you face has odds, probability and statistics attached to it. For the math-phobes out there though, don't worry. You don't need to become a math expert to be a strong poker player. In fact, there are tons of serious players who have no idea what a common denominator is. As complex as Hold'em strategy is, the game at its core is still very simple.

And this simplicity makes for simple equations and easy mathematics. Many of the following things you don't need to fully understand - you just need to know enough to have a good feel for the game.

Pot odds are the odds you're "being offered by the pot" to make your call. This is the amount of money in the pot compared to the amount of money you must pay to stay in the hand.

An example: 

Say we go to the flop heads-up. There's $10 in the pot and your opponent bets $5. Since your opponent's bet is now part of the pot, you're being offered $15 for a cost of $5. In ratio form, that's 15:5. To simplify, you always make the right side of your ratio equal to 1 (you'll see why this is easier in a second). So to make the right side equal to 1, divide 5 by itself. 5/5 = 1.

Basic math rules say that whatever you do to one side of a ratio, you must do to the other. So since we divided the right side by 5, we divide the left side by 5. 15/5 = 3. Your new ratio is 3:1 (If you want to skip a step, you can also just divide the left side by the right side (15/5) to find the left-hand side of the new ratio). So in this situation, the pot odds are 3:1.

Related Reading:

How to Calculate Poker Equity

Treasure Chest
The hunt for Equity

The next step after figuring out your pot odds is figuring out your equity (your chances of winning the pot compared to your opponent's).

To calculate your equity, take your total number of outs and multiply that number by 4 on the flop (or 2 on the turn). This will give you your chance at winning the pot as a percentage.

So for example if you have a flush draw, you have 9 outs on the flop. 9x4 = 36% chance at making the best hand.

Since we have the pot odds as a ratio, we then need to make that percentage a ratio to compare the two. With 100 possible percentage points, your equity ratio is then 64-36 (64 times you don't make your hand; 36 times you do).

If we use the same ratio shortcut from the pot odds section to get the right side equal to 1, the equity ratio is (64/36):1 or 1.7:1.  Meaning for every one time you make your hand there will be 1.7 times that you don't.

If you don't want to be that precise in your pot-odds calculation (and poker math doesn't need to be exact at the table), the simple shortcut is to estimate that 36 will go into 64 a little less than twice.

It really doesn't matter if you think that means it's 1.6, 1.7, 1.8 or 1.9:1; even if you just round it to 2:1 that's probably close enough to decide on making the call or not.

Comparing Pot Odds to Equity

So how do you know if you should make the call? Simply compare the two numbers on the left-hand side of the ratios.

If your pot odds number is higher than your equity number, then it's a good call. If it's lower, then you're making a bad call. In its most basic form, odds are no more complicated than this.

Random Poker Odds and Ends to Keep Handy

Probability of...OddsExample
Being dealt a pair17:1 (5.9% )7♠ 7♥
Being dealt Aces221:1 (0.45%)A♥ A♦
Being dealt Ace-King Suited331.5:1 (0.3%)A♠ K♠
Flopping a set with a pocket-pair8.51:1 (11.76%)8♣ 8♥ | 2♠ 8♦ A♣
Flopping two pair (without a pocket-pair pre-flop)48:1 (2.02%)7♣ 10♦ | 7♥ 10♣ 3♥
Making a Flush by the river (flopped 4 to a suit)1.9:1 (35%)A♦ Q♦ | 9♦ 4♦ A♠ 10♦
Making an open-ended straight by the river2.2:1 (32%)6♦ 7♥ | 8♥ 9♦ 2♣ 3♦ 10♣
A full house or better by the river (flopped three of a kind)2:1 (33%)4♦ 4♥ | 4♣ K♦ Q♥ K♠

Ballpark Poker Odds are Good Enough

Jonathan Little
"Close" is good enough

Understanding poker odds in Texas Hold'em might seem like a daunting task - especially if you're not "a math person."

But everybody who plays poker has the ability to calculate poker odds. Everybody.

You don't have to get it dialled in to the fourth decimal place (although if you do end up playing the high stakes that wouldn't hurt) but generally understanding when you're a 60-40 favorite or when you're getting the right odds to call are important things to know.

If you are miscalculating your pot odds (or not thinking about them), you're going to make a lot of mistakes that will make it hard for you to become a winning player.

Comparing your current pot odds with your chances of hitting your outs is critical. But luckily, the math behind it is really quite simple.

Related Reading:

More on Pot Odds:

If you want to get started, just check out this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm4CfBqZzU8

More on How Not to Suck at Poker:

  1. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play Fewer Hands
  2. How Not to Suck at Poker: Play in Position
  3. How Not to Suck at Poker: Count Your Outs
  4. How Not to Suck at Poker: Learn Basic Odds
  5. How Not to Suck at Poker: Pay Attention
  6. How Not to Suck at Poker: Have a Proper Bankroll
  7. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Bluffing
  8. How Not to Suck at Poker: Stop Talking So Much
  9. How Not to Suck at Poker: Track Your Results
  10. How Not to Suck at Poker: Talk to Better Players

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Sean Lind
2009-10-22 07:52:00

Caluolin,

If you want your odds for one card to come, such as getting odds from the turn to hit the river, you multiply outs by 2.

That’s just how the math works.

caluolin
2009-10-21 20:40:00

Why on the turn I multiply my outs by 2 to get the odds for 1 card to come?

Sean Lind
2009-09-01 19:07:00

Lar,

You multiply your outs by 2 to get the odds for 1 card to come. So on the turn, you use 2.

Also, on the flop, you use 2 if you expect to have to pay another bet to see the river. Multiplying by 4 is for hitting your draw on either the turn or river.

Lar
2009-09-01 00:24:00

I thought your outs were to be multiplied by 2. Thats what I’v eread in most places. Obviously these numbers (2&4) create dramatically different pictures of where you stand!

Morten Hard
2009-08-18 22:45:00

Well I can’t help it..
They’re all just so tasty! <:D

Sean Lind
2009-08-18 01:05:00

Thanks again Morten. You’re really chewing through all the odds articles it seems.

Morten Hard
2009-08-18 00:00:00

Just wanted to pinpoint a small mistake in the article. Where it says.: (64 times you don’t make your hand; 34 times you do). It should have been 36. Not 34. Got a little confused at first. No wonder. 😉 lol

Sean Lind
2009-08-17 19:47:00

Hey Arne, you can try this article:

Pot Odds

ArneMorten
2009-08-17 19:31:00

Um, sorry I am late about this but i just discovered this site.

Can anyone please post how you calcualte all the above odds? (some random odds and ends to keep handy)

it would help me a ton about calculating other types of odds in the furutre.

John Derek Miller
2009-05-30 00:11:00

Just to help a little 56% is misleading, its just the amount of times the hand will flush for every 100 it won’t.

Out of 156 times this is played out 56 times you will be successful but does not mean you will necessarily win the hand!

It does not mean you will hit 56% of the time because it already states the chance is 36% and I personally think that’s all the info you need.

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