Basic Poker Math: Pot Odds and Hand Odds

Don’t worry. This isn’t as hard as you may think. We’re going to discuss hand odds and pot odds, which are important concepts to understand if you are new to poker. These can help you make the right decisions based on the math instead of gut instinct. With experience, you will be able to get a feel for the odds without consulting charts.

Hand Odds Briefly Explained

Poker Hand odds tell you how likely, or unlikely you are to make a hand in poker. We’re assuming you play Texas Hold’em Poker. To find the probability for any hand, divide the outs of your hand by the number of unseen cards in the deck (all other cards except for your two hole cards and the cards already on the board).

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If, after the flop, you have a flush draw, then you have 9 outs (13 of a suit minus 4). Now 52 cards on the deck minus your 2 hole cards and the 3 flop cards is 47. So divide 9 by 47 and you get .191. Move the decimal a bit and you get 19.1%. That’s your chances of hitting the flush at that point by the next card.

When playing a poker hand you always want to know what clean “outs” you have to win the hand. This will ensure you are drawing to the best hand, first and foremost, and secondly you can use the information to calculate your hand odds, like we demonstrated with a flush draw above.

Poker Pot Odds

After poker hand odds come poker pot odds which you need to learn about as well. Poker Pot odds is the ratio of the money in the pot to the amount you have to bet for a chance to win it. Say the pot is worth $100 and you need to call $50. That makes the pot odds 2:1. You will get paid $2 for every $1.

These are important odds to know because for a bet to be worth calling, your hand odds must be better than the pot odds you’re getting. In our example, you have less than a 20% chance of making the flush. That’s 1/5. This tells you that you are risking more for less. Your chances of making the hand is smaller than what you stand to win. So the bet isn’t worth calling. If you do, you will lose in the long run. But if the pot is big and you only need to call a small bet, it will be worth calling to try and make your hand, because the math suggests it’s a profitable call to make.

That is how pot odds in poker work. They tell you when a bet is worth making and when it isn’t. It’s that simple. Next time you need to make a tough decision, consult your hand odds and pot odds. Calculating them on the fly during hands will become second nature in no time at all.

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