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Thursday July 31st 2014

Ins and Outs : Understanding Poker Odds

Ins and Outs : Understanding Poker Odds

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Grasping the nature of odds in poker is an indispensable tool for any serious player. Knowing when the odds are in your favour and when you are merely chasing a pot in the hope of catching a lucky, but ultimately unlikely, break is crucial. Most people have an understanding of odds and how they function. For instance, a coin toss has a 50/50 (or 1:1) chance of landing on heads or tails. Therefore, if someone offers you odds of 2:1 on it landing on either side, the "odds" are in your favour. You still only have a 1:1 chance of selecting the right outcome, but your opponent will be paying out at a rate of 2:1 (essentially paying "over the odds" ) if he loses. If this bet was replicated twenty times, it is highly likely the person offering the 2:1 odds would be losing money and their opponent would be winning.

Clearly, odds within a game of poker are much more complex and dynamic and change with the turn of each card - yet they operate on the same mathematical principles. Knowing how favourable your position is within each of these transitions and knowing how to adapt your betting and playing style to account for such changes, are core weapons in any poker player's arsenal.

Drawing Hands


Imagine you are holding an Ace and Ten of Hearts and the flop produces the following cards:

9h 2h 8c

Although your best hand is still merely ace high, if another heart appears you will be holding a strong ace high (nut) flush. So what are the odds of you holding a flush by the time the next card appears?

The simplest way to approximate the likelihood of a flush draw coming to fruition is to give each card a value of 2.2% (with 52 cards in deck, this is a rough estimation of the likelihood of a given card appearing) and then multiplying that number by your number of possible outs. In this case, there are 9 hearts still in the deck (there being 13 cards of any suit in a deck minus the 2 in your hand and the 2 that appeared on the flop), so 2.2% x 9 = 19.8%. This is the probability of you hitting a heart on the turn card. Of course one or more opponents could be holding some heart cards too, which would decrease your chances further, but since this is an unknowable variable in the context of a game, it does not effect our calculations. The odds of hitting the flush after seeing the turn and the river are approximately 36% as one essentially has a second bite at hitting a heart. So, the odds are clearly against you, but does that mean the hand should be folded if any bet is made?

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