Introduction to Hand Odds
It seems now days everyone plays poker. Grandpa, your neighbor, your boss, even kids know how to play poker and specifically Texas Hold’Em. But playing Texas Hold’Em and winning at Texas Hold’Em are two different things. Most novice poker players think that playing Texas Hold’Em is as easy as getting two cards, betting when good cards come up on the board and once in a while throwing in a bluff if it’s not going to cost too much. What separates the novice player from the one who is going to take his money is math. One of the first steps to using math to your advantage in Holdem is learning to figure out hand odds.
Math plays a huge role in Texas Hold’Em. Without knowing the math of the game, you are at a huge disadvantage. Just as it’s not wise to walk down the street and leave cash on the sidewalk to mark your path in hopes that it will be there when you make your return trip, it’s just as unwise to throw cash into a pot on the hope that cards will show up that you need. There are 52 cards in a deck and if you need one or two of them to make you a winner, that’s not very good odds to get one or both of them and that’s a very risky way to handle your hard earned money.
So, how do you use math to help you win? It’s very easy. The first thing that you have to determine is how many different cards, or how many outs, will help you win the hand. Only after you know how many cards can help you can you figure out what percent of the time you might get the needed cards. If you don’t know your chances of winning, how can you possibly play?
Let me take one minute to tell you a true story. I knew a player who had no idea how to figure out the percentages or even how many outs he had. When he was playing and the river card was about to come out, he honestly thought he had a 50/50 chance of getting the card he needed to win. The card either comes or it doesn’t, so that’s 50% of winning and 50% chance of losing. Unfortunately, the person also had an addiction to gambling. Those two things, the complete lack of math skills and an addiction to have to play poker are a terrible train wreck. This player eventually lost all of his savings, spent every dime of income, had a mental breakdown and has not been seen at the casino for a long time.
Now back to the math. Depending on how many cards are left to see on the board, you can easily figure out your chances of getting your needed card or cards. Each card that you need is equal to a 2% chance of getting it per remaining card. So, if you have pocket 6’s pre flop and 3 cards are about to come out on the flop, there are only three scenarios that can happen. There can be two other 6’s available in the deck. If nobody has one in their hand, you would have roughly a 12% chance of getting one on the flop. That is 2% for each card about to come out on the flop (2×3=6) times the 2 cards available (6×2=12). 12%. But what if someone has a 6 in their hand? The chances are now only about 6% of hitting your trips. 2% for each card about to flop (2×3=6) times the 1 available card to help you (6×1=6) 6%. Not good chances.
What about if you have an Ace and a Nine of hearts and two hearts show up on the flop? What are your chances of getting a flush? Well, there are 13 hearts in a deck. You have two in your hand and there are two on the board. That leaves 9 that could possibly be available if nobody else had one, which is unlikely. The turn is one card only, so that is 2%. So for the chances to hit your flush on the turn you would have (2×9=18) an 18% chance of hitting it. If you want to know before the turn your chances of getting your flush by the river, that would be 2% for both the turn and the river, which is 4% total. Multiply the 4% times the amount of outs (4×9=36) to get your 36 percent chance of hitting a flush on either the turn or the river. Obviously, if you do not hit it on the turn, the chances revert back to 18% since there would now only be one card remaining to be seen. 36% and 18% chances are still not what you want to be banking on consistently when risking your money. Hence the old saying, “Those that draw for straights and flushes, end up selling Fuller Brushes,” which is a reference to having to sell products door to door.
So remember, the use of math and percentages is very important in Texas Hold’Em. You really have no chance to win without knowing how to determine your outs and your chances of winning. Learn to compute these percentages in you head very quickly and you will see your chances of winning sky rocket.