Most poker players understand the basic odds of a poker hand winning against other poker hands and the rank of possible starting poker hands. Although it may seem complicated at first but it is vital that players can calculate their odds and probability of their poker hands against other players to become winning poker players. Poker is principally about percentages, probability, odds and “outs”.
Many players will be losing money because they incorrectly value their starting poker hands and because they bet their hands based on the wrong probability of their hand winning or miscalculating or guessing their relative pot odds.
It is important to note that poker is NOT a game of luck, over the short term luck and bad beats will be a factor but over the longer term odds, statistics and probability will win out over lucky poker players and suffering bad beats.
Playing winning poker must be viewed as long term game and how good you are cannot be judged over a few hands or games. This is because over thousands of hands statistics and probability will hold good, giving a skilled player the edge playing the best hands correctly and winning.
The unskilled player will get lucky over the short term as the game has a short term variance, what we would call luck (this is where the player with the best hand suffered a bad beat getting out drawn by a statistically weaker hand).
The key factor is that even after suffering a bad beat you should continue to play these hands as the more hands you play where the odds are overwhelmingly in your favour – you will win most of the time and that means you will win more over the long term.
Definitions of Bad Beats & Poker Odds
Bad Beat – When a stronger hand that is a statistical favourite to win, loses to a much weaker hand that hits a lucky draw or an out, it’s know as a “bad beat” or a “suck out”.
Implied Odds – Total amount of money that you expect the pot to be worth by the end of the hand balanced against the amount of money required to stay in the hand.
Poker Outs – The total number of possible cards that could be dealt that would improve your hand enough to win the hand, excluding counterfeit cards that would also help other players.
Expected Value EV – The average return that a particular bet would win over a long period of time calculated by taking the pot value minus the amount of the bet.
Understanding Basic Pot Odds in Poker
Undeniably one of the most crucial strategies in poker would be the understanding of “Pot odds” in poker. In any form of Texas Hold-em especially tournament or cash game play can be very different yet very much alike. Pot odds are nothing more than a simple gauge for estimating your return on an investment in a poker hand.
In this article we are going to concentrate on the tournament side of the coin. Let’s say you are investing in a commodity, say soya beans that continually returns seventy-five cents on every dollar you have to recognize if you keep making that investment you will go broke. But if your soya beans consistently return a buck-and-quarter for every dollar you put in them, you are going to make a lot of money. That same mindset is used for Pot odds in poker.
Like our soya bean analogy, poker hands are high-risk investments also, with no guaranteed return. For example, a flop comes down with two spades and you have AK of Spades, you don’t have anything but an Ace high right now, but if any spade comes up you will have the nut flush.
So if someone before you bets you must decide if it is worth the investment. All you have in your hand is potential and if you have been playing long enough most of the time a flush doesn’t materialize. For you to call a bet, I extremely go against raising in this position, because you bring luck into the equation more than strategy, you have to decide if the pot odds are in your favour to call.
For your call to be profitable, the pots you win when you do make your flush have to pay enough for you to cover all those times your flush doesn’t come and then some for you to profit. If you don’t make enough when you hit your flush to cover your prior losses you’ll lose money like all bad investors.
Pot odds are simply the ratio of the amount of money in the pot (potential return) to the cost of a call (potential investment). Let’s use another example, you have A 4 spades and this time the flop comes down Q-9-2, with only one card being a spade.
Neither player bets on the flop, you bet hoping to take the pot down right there, but both the players call. On the turn comes a King of spades, making the board Q-9-2-K with two spades, giving you four cards to a possible nut flush. Let’s say the first player bets and the second raises all-in.
At this point, all you have is a nut flush draw. You are certain at this point that you are beat my both players. With only one card to come, and if that card is not a spade, you know you won’t win this hand with an ace high. If an ace comes on the river you might have top pair but one of your opponents might have A-K or A-Q and that could cost you a lot of money.
So in retracing this hand the only logical way to look at it would be that have to have a spade to win. So the question you have to ask yourself. Do I call an all-in bet for a nut flush and is that a good investment?
This is a maths problem pure and simple and the first step to answering the question is pot odds. Again the pot odds are the ratio of the amount of money in the pot to the cost of the call. If the size of the pot is $1000 and it is $100 to call the pot odds are 10 to 1.
Just remember whether you plan on playing recreationally or gambling professionally, the understanding of pot odds is very important if you want the numbers to fall your way. You will be doing simple mathematics like this in every hand you play and the more hands you play the better you get at understanding the nuances of pot odds.
Odds and Probability of Making a Poker Hand
This is a useful mathematical guide using your number of outs to calculate probability of making a hand with two cards to come.
You’ve seen the flop, added up the number of possible cards that will make your hand and need to know the chances of completing your hand on the turn or the river.
For example …
Your on an open ended straight draw – you have 2 cards at either end which would help x 4 suits = 8 cards.
Your on a flush draw – you have 4 cards to the flush leaving 9 cards of the same suit to help you.
your on both a flush and a open ended straight draw – you have 9 cards to the flush + 6 additional non suited cards to make a straight = 15 cards.
Outs ………. Percentage
1 …………… 4.4%
2 …………… 8.4%
3 …………… 12.5%
Gutshot straight draw
4 …………… 16.5%
5 …………… 20.3%
6 …………… 24.1%
7 …………… 27.8%
Open ended straight draw
8 …………… 31.5%
9 …………… 35%
10 …………. 38.4%
11 …………. 41.7%
12 …………. 45.0%
13 …………. 48.1%
14 …………. 51.2%
Straight and flush draw
15 …………. 54.1%
16 …………. 57.0%
17 …………. 59.8%
18 …………. 62.4%
19 …………. 65.0%
20 …………. 67.5%
It is important to note these percentages assume you will be able to see both the turn & the river to make your hand – the chances are that a player who isn’t on a draw will make you pay for every card you see.
Another Example of Calculating Pot Odds
Understanding the odds inherent with the game and playing in accordance with those odds will improve your results and combining that strategy with skill and intelligence is what makes a great poker player.
Put simply, pot odds should be the basis for all choices you make regarding your hand. Pot odds are determined by comparing the size of the pot to the strength of your hand and estimating what you have to invest to have a shot at the pot. In other words, pot odds are basically the risk v’s the gain for each hand.
Now we’ll demonstrate this concept with another hypothetical hand.
For example, you are playing a game of No Limit Hold-em. You were dealt a starting hand of 8(c) and 9(c).
The flop shows a 6(c) 7(c) and K(s).
There are two players left in the hand in addition to you, and both raised before the flop.
The pot is currently $40, and you are the last player to bet.
This scenario obviously puts you in a pretty strong position. You have eight outs to a straight and eleven outs to a flush, for a total of nineteen outs, which gives you a pretty good shot at winning the hand.
Suppose that one of the remaining players bets $10 and the next player calls. That makes a $60 pot prior to your own bet and you only have to call at $10 to stay in. At this point the pot odds translate to a return of six times your investment if you win.
Additionally, you have 2:1 odds of winning this hand prior to the turn. These statistics when taken into consideration together make for very attractive pot odds. If for example the king was also a club, then your chances of winning the hand would decrease as the other players potential for getting the same combination increased. Or if the pot was lower and your call was higher, then your pot odds would decrease accordingly and betting or even calling would be a higher risk.
The concept of pot odds is difficult to explain in words but is easier to understand in action and can be quite effective in improving your win percentage when applied practically.
Because the purpose of playing poker is to win, anything that can improve your chances of winning or increase the amount you win is a valuable asset.
Using pot odds to determine how you play does not guarantee you win, but it does make the risks you take and the occasional pay-off from those risks more favourable.
Chasing long shot draws can be costly and unprofitable unless the value of the pot relative to the cost to call makes it worth it … Get to know your pot odds.