Poker Odds and Outs are two different things. Let’s begin with poker odds. Poker Odds come in many different forms. This can be Pot Odds, Implied Odds, Reverse Implied Odds, and more. Those terms can be intimidating, so I’m going to stick to the simplest definitions for now.
In Texas hold’em the Pot Odds refer to the percentage amount of the pot to the value of an anticipated call. The Pot Odds are linked to the chance of the current poker hand winning with the turn or river card so as to guesstimate the players return on the investment.
Implied odds refer to how much you will get paid if you make a call and hit your hand.
In other words, do you anticipate getting a call from your opponent if you hit your hand? Reverse implied odds refers to how much you could potentially lose if you hit your hand. Outs refers to how many cards in the deck will help you make your hand.
Math and poker go hand in hand. You don’t have to have a college degree to be a good poker player, of course, but having a basic understanding of the concept of probability will do you a world of good. After all, understanding probability is what helps you understand the poker odds of having a winning hand – and next to knowing the poker rules, that’s the most important part of being able to play.
When it comes to poker, betting is what wins and loses games. You might know that there’s a difference between good and bad bets, but you might not know what separates the two. Great poker players can look at a poker hand and determine when it’s worth betting and when they need to walk away, and their ability to do so is largely based on understanding of basic poker math.
Poker Odds and Outs
If you’re familiar with the culture surrounding poker games, you’ve probably heard a few phrases used. Poker odds or drawing odds, for example, are common phrases that’s easier to understand than you might think. Drawing odds refers to the chance of getting a particular poker hand you want after multiple rounds of betting and the probabilities of getting that poker hand. Another term, an ‘out’, refers to an unknown card that can improve a player’s poker hand. Knowing the actual math and poker odds behind these two terms will help you to become a better Texas Hold’em poker player.
If you want to improve your poker strategy, we’re going to have to take the time to really look at poker odds. This will help you understand when you’ve got a better chance of getting a winning hand and will ultimately help you to make smarter decisions. Doing this will require working on math, but don’t worry too much – the basics are fairly simple, and you’ll get access to some easy methods of calculation that you’ll be able to use as a shortcut in the future.
Basic Math – Poker Odds and Percentages
Poker odds are an either/or proposition. What you’re looking at is whether something is more or less likely to happen. If you’re having trouble visualizing this, you might want to look at a fairly basic poker hand as an easy example.
Let us say that you have the Qs and the 4s, and you’re looking to get a flush. There is one card left to come out, so you know that there’s roughly a four to one chance that you’ll get a spade as the next card. You’re not looking at fractions here, but rather at an expression than means ‘there are four chances that I won’t get a spade, and one chance that I will’. You’ll add up all the poker odds to realize that you realistically have a one in five chance to get the card you want – a twenty percent chance, in other words.
Let’s take a look at some basic poker odds in order to get the basic language down. Below are some simple examples:
– 5-to-1 against – success is one in six – 16.6 percent
– 4-to-1 against – success is one in five – 20 percent
– 3-to-1 against – success is one in four – 25 percent
– 2-to-1 against – success is 1 out of three – 33.3 percent
There are some cases in which you might want to convert between the two expressions in order to better understand your chances or to help out others. You want to convert poker odds into a percentage, you’ll take the two numbers and divide 100 by the sum. If you have 2-to-1 odds, for example, you’ll end up dividing 100 by 3. If you want to express the percentage as odds, you’ll just do the reverse – divide 100 by the percentage, then subtract one from that total. In this case, 25 percent would become 3-to-1.
Still not comfortable? You can convert your percentage into your poker odds by dividing the percentage of a miss by the percentage of a hit. If you have a twenty percent chance of hitting a flush, you’d divide your chance of not hitting (eighty percent) by that your chance of hitting (twenty percent) and wind up with the number 4. You could now express the odds as 4-to-1.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what method you choose or which way of expressing the odds you like. Some people like to work with poker odds, while others are much more comfortable working with percentage. What actually matters that you understand how the poker odds work so that you will be able to develop a poker strategy that will help you to win more hands and ultimately to take home more money when you play.
Counting Your Outs
You’re not going to be able to start out knowing your poker odds. Before you can start those calculations, you’re going to need to know what cards are going to help you make your hand. This means knowing your outs, and it should be one of the very first things you learn in poker.
Let’s pretend like you are working on a flush. You have two hearts in your hand right now and two hearts on the board, so you just need one more heart to have a flush. You know that if you see four of the hearts (let’s say J, Q, K, A), there are still nine more hearts out there (2-10) in the deck. When you do some simple subtraction (the number of suited cards remaining minus those in your hand and on the board), you know that you’ll have nine possible cards to improve your hand, nine outs.
Let’s get a little more complicated. Suppose you have an 8h and 9h. On the flop, 8c, 9d, Qc pop up. That’s great for you – you’ve already got two pair. That’s not your best possible hand, though – you’re still working on a full house. Right now, there are still four cards out there that can give you a full house – the 8d, the 8s, the 9c, and the 9s. You have four outs to improve your hand to a full house.
If you don’t feel like doing the math in your head, you might be better served by memorizing the following scenarios of the outs you’ll need to improve your hand after the flop:
Nothing to a Pair: Six outs
Pair to Three of a Kind: Two outs
Pair to Two Pair: Five outs
Two Pair to Full House: Four outs
Set to Full House or Four of a Kind: Seven outs
Inside Straight to Straight: Four outs
Open-ended Straight to Straight: Eight outs
Flush to Better Flush: Nine Outs
Inside Straight/Flush to Improve Straight/Flush: Twelve outs
Open Straight/Flush to Improve Either: Fifteen outs
On a basic level, you’d think that counting your outs would be easy. All you need to do is figure out how many unknown cards will improve your hand – at least, if you don’t account for the variables. There are a few things that you’ll want to know in order to be more accurate.
Caution: Don’t Count Outs Twice
Let’s say that you’re working on a flush draw and a straight draw at once. You’d think that you have seventeen outs because there are eight outs for a straight and nine for a flush. In reality, though, you have fifteen outs because the two hands share some of the outs. You have to be careful not to count them twice when calculating your odds!
Sometimes you’ll get an out that will make your hand better, but they won’t actually help you win. Let’s say you have an 8c and a 7d and the flop is a 6d, Kh, and a 9h. You’re in a position where you’re working on a straight, but you are also in a position where you could very well be seeing a flush in play. That means that you have eight outs available, but two of those outs will actually give you a worse hand. As such, you’re really just looking at six reasonable outs.
As a rule, you want to be as cautious as possible when you figure out all of your outs. Not every out is going to help you and a handful will actively hurt you. Get rid of these in your head and just focus on the outs that will actually help you with your poker strategy.
Calculating Your Poker Odds
Congratulations – you know how to figure out how many good outs you actually have. Now that you know that, you can start figuring out your odds. There are tons of different systems out there, but you’ll want to focus on the easiest at first. This is known as the rule of four and two by Phil Gordon’s in the Little Green Book.
Doing the Math – The Rule of Four and Two
The four and two method is probably the easiest way to figure out your most realistic odds in a hand of poker. If you still have the turn and the river left to come, you’re going to multiple your number of outs by four in order to calculate your odds. If you’re just waiting on the river, you’re calculating your odds by multiplying your outs by two. This is an imprecise method, but it’s close enough to help you make the right choices.
Let’s take an ideal poker situation to demonstrate this one. The other player has gone all in, so you know that you’re going to see both the turn and river. You currently have nine outs after seeing the flop, so you’re going to multiply those outs by four in order to get your odds – in this case, you get 36 or a thirty-six percent chance to make your hand. That’s a little better than one and three, and the math is accurate enough to help you make a realistic choice about what to do next.
It’s even easier to figure out your odds if you’ve only got the river card left. You just multiply your outs by two in order to get your odds. If you’ve got nine outs x 2, you get 18 or you have an eighteen percent chance to get what you need. It’s not quite precise, but again it’s enough to give you an edge when betting.
Once you’ve got a handle on poker odds, you can start to put this knowledge into play. You’ll be able to figure out whether you should call a bet, raise, or fold based not on a hunch but rather on the poker odds.
At the end of the day, you’re just going to need to have faith in the 4×2 rule. The math here is correct and you’ll generally get favorable results. Once you know the most common draws and what they mean in terms of the odds, you’ll be able to make smarter decisions when you play. It’s not always going to be easy to keep all this information in your head, but it’s definitely worthwhile if you want to win poker tournaments and improve your overall level of play. See you at the WSOP!
Poker Odds – FAQs
A: You memorize them from charts, but if you want to play at the next level, you can’t be a robot. Everything is situational.
A: Yes. If you’re getting 5:1 from the BB with 75-off, it’s a call. In draw situations, you have to figure in implied odds, which is how much you will get paid if you hit your draw.
A: You are 81% vs KK, 92% vs. AK-off, 87% vs. AK-suited, and 77% vs. 87-suited and 76-suited, which are the two most dangerous hands vs. AA.
A: The odds of flopping two pair or better is just north of 5.6%. I wouldn’t recommend relying on flopping two pair.
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