Texas Holdem Poker Odds

I've seen a lot of many professor-types try and make it in the poker world and more often than not, they fail pretty miserably at higher stakes because high stakes poker is much more of a people game than a card game. Match whizzes can perform fairly well at low stakes, because the games are relatively straightforward A-B-C affairs: Subtle trickery has no role. If you play good cards and know just a little math - relax, it's actually a very little match - you'll be fine.

Probably the single most important match or odds concept you need to learn in all forms of poker is the concept of pot odds.

Sometimes calculating pot odds is a very precise, straightforward matter; other times, you can be sure about some numbers in the equation but not about others and you simply have to make your best guess.

An example of the straightforward calculation occurs when there's one card to come and you only have to decide about calling one bet. For example, suppose there's $200 in the pot and you need to call $20 to see the last cards. That's 10-1 pot odds. You are drawing to make a straight and know because there are 8 cards that will make it and 38 that won't (because something you'll learn quite soon) that you have a 17% chance of making your straight. You also are positive that if you make your straight, you'll win the hand. A 17% chance is roughly 6-1, so this is an easy call.

If you're not comfortable converting percentages to odds, you could do this math another way. What's 17% of $200? $34 (round it to 15% if you're looking for broad, ballpark numbers). That's the break-even figure on your call in this pot. If it were going to cost you $34 to call, you'd be indifferent about calling (although another subject called implied odds would induce you to call). At only $20, this pot is a bargain draw.

The next most important odds topic involves your ability to calculate how easy or difficult it will be for you to hit a draw of any kind on the flop. To do this, you first must figure out how many cards are in the deck that will win for you. A card that will win the pot for you is called an out.

Fortunately, the math on calculating most of the common draws is easy to memorize. If you have a flush draw (either because there are two hearts on board and two in your hand, or three hearts on board and one in your hand - the odds are the same), you have exactly a 33% chance to make your draw, with two cards to come. If you have an open-ended straight draw, you have a 30% chance to make your hand with two cards to come.

What happens if there's only one card to come or if for some reason you can make adjustments because of exposed cards? Fortunately, there's a very simple formula for calculating winning chances. Just give yourself 2% winning chances for every out you have and multiply that times the number of cards to come. This formula is quite accurate when you only have a few outs; the more outs you have, the more you need to make a slight downward adjustment.

Let's take a look at this formula in action. Because there are 13 cards of any given suit in a deck, when you have a flush draw, there are nine cards remaining that can win for you. Nine times 2% is 18%. Because you're calculating your odds on the flop, you have two cards to come, so your 18% turns into 36 percents. You already know that a flush draw is 33%, so if you have used 2 percent formula, you'd have been close - very close indeed if you had also made the slight downward adjustment required for a large number of outs (and nine outs twice - once on the turn and once on the river - is a large number).

Similarly, when trying to hit an open-ended straight draw, there are eight outs (four cards of each rank). Eight outs time 2% is 16%, and with two cards to come, 32 percent. You already know a straight draw is actually 30 percent. You can see that just by dropping from nine outs to eight, the formula is getting more accurate.

This formula will let you figure things like the advisability of trying the classic bad poker play - drawing to an inside straight. See if you can do it.

» From the big blind. Obviously you can play any hand if players limp in and you get to see the flop for free; even if you have 7-2 off suit, the worst hand in texas hold'em, there's no law that prevents the flop from coming 7-7-2, so if you get a free ride, take it.

If you are forced to raise in the big blind, you can defend with any of the eight categories of hands; if you have a Category One, Two, or Three, re-raise, and after you gain a little experience, you can re-raise with Category Four as well.

» Under-the-gun. Stick with Group Five and above, limping with Group Five and raising with Group Four or above.

Note: Limping is entering in a pot by calling the previous single bet, rather than entering via a raise.

» Middle position. Limp in with Group Six or Seven, depending on whether you're in early or late middle position. Bring the hand in for a raise Group Five or above. If someone else has already raised, call with Group Six and Group Five, and re-raise with Group Four.

» Late position. If you are the first player to enter the pot, raise with Group Eight, and if you are on the button, you can consider raising with lesser hands, in an attempt to steal the blinds. If one or more players are already in, limp with Group Seven, Group Eight and raise with Group Six or better. If someone has already raised, call with Group Six and re-raise with Group Five.

Finally, although we have been examining texas holdem mostly from the rather narrow viewpoint of starting hands and starting positions, you should remember that when you play your starting hand, you get to see three cards at once and often for the price of only one small bet. Contrast that with what happens in the turn, when it costs you a double-sized bet (also called a big bet) just to see one more card.

For that reason, the flop is said to truly "define your hand" in holdem. If the flop connects with your hand well (also hitting the flop well), you're probably in for the duration, unless some truly scary cards come off the turn and/or the river.

Beginning holdem players are well advised to follow the "fit or fold" method of playing. That is, unless you start with a big pair and that pair either connects on the flop or a set or is higher than any cards on the flop (called, in that case, "an over-pair to the board"), you should throw your hand away unless the flop improves it. That means that you should strongly consider folding K-K if the flop comes A-X-X because, especially at the lower limits, players tend to play Ace-anything and once that ace hits the boards, your two kings are usually no good any more.

Even the mighty A-K, such a wonderful hand when it hits because no matter which card hits, you always have top pair, top kicker, is practically useless if the flop comes something like J-8-6. Somebody out there is probably playing middle cards or middle pairs and even through your A-K is a very promising starting hand, if it misses the flop, you have only ace high and only two cards yet to come in a situation when it's extremely likely that one or more opponents have some kind of pair.

More Great Texas Holdem Poker Odds Info Here:

  Party Poker Inter Poker
  Ultimate Bet PokerRoom
  Pacific Poker Empire Poker
  Paradise Poker Doyles Room
  Absolute ... Poker Stars
  Full Tilt ... Noble Poker
  Titan Poker Bodog Poker
Poker room accepts U.S. players.

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