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
2009-05-29 19:13:00

I think some of the confusion here comes from people having a hard time understanding ratios.

let’s look at 3-1

Most people would think that 3 is 3 times greater than 1, so it’s 300%

that’s a mistake.

3-1 means 3parts to 1 part. That means there are a total of 4 parts. the three is 3 out of 4, or 75%

Hope this helps a bit.

Sean Lind
2009-05-29 18:36:00

b,

For what we’re doing, the number of players at the table is irrelevant.

The reason for this, is we’re only calculating the chances of us hitting our hand. Since we don’t know if our 9 outs are in the stub, another player’s hand, or in the muck we have to assume they’re all live, and make our calculations on that assumption.

Sean Lind
2009-05-29 18:29:00

I’m not sure where you guys are getting 56% from?

The odds of hitting a flush are 36% (9*4).

100% – 36% = 64%

64 – 36

That’s your ratio, 64 times you don’t make it, 36 times you do.

To make Ratio’s easy to work with, we want to make the right side into a 1.

36/36 = 1

you can’t do something to one side of a ratio without doing the same to the other

64/36 = 1.777777777

your new ratio is 1.777777 – 1

Does this clear anything up?

b
2009-05-29 17:17:00

don’t the odds depend on the number of players at the table and the subsequent number of cards remaining in the deck?

confused
2009-05-29 17:07:00

out of 100 hands,you would expect to win 36 and lose 64………64+36=100…..where does 56% come from???That was a well written article.

Tbone
2009-05-28 23:01:00

Sean,

One question – you first say:

‘So for example if you have a flush draw, you have 9 outs on the flop. 9×4 = 36% chance at making the best hand.”

I take it to mean that there is a 36% of winning a flush.

But then later on, you divide 36/64, which gives 56%….

If the odds of winning are 36%, you shouldnt then divide that by 64% – how do you figure?

Thanks,

Brad McBride
2009-05-25 00:23:00

Concise and to the point. An excellent article for beginners and a good refresher for experienced players.

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