One of the most important aspects of poker is being able to calculate the odds of any given situation. Not only do you need to be able to understand the math in calculating odds in order to play smart poker (the only kind that’s profitable), but without calculating even the basic odds, you can never learn the more advanced concepts necessary to become a top notch poker player, such as pot odds and implied odds, as well as expected value. You can play okay against weak opponents without a strong grip on these concepts, but you won’t be making as much money as you should be, and you’ll flounder against the sharks.
Calculating basic odds is fairly easy, and like just about anything else, the more you practice, the better you’ll get and the more natural figuring out the odds will be. When figuring out odds in a game like Texas Hold ‘Em, you take the number of cards in the deck (52), the number of ‘outs’ you have (varies) and the number of cards showing, which unless you’re showing down heads up will be your two plus whatever is on the board. You never count your opponents’ cards and you never count the burn cards in your calculations.
For example, if this was your situation:
|:ac: :kc:||:2c: :7h: :9s:|
Suppose because of a tell you think your opponent has a pocket pair, or maybe just hit either the seven or the nine, so you have them on a pair. This means either a king or an ace will be enough to win. In this case, you assume there are three kings and three aces left in the deck, meaning you have six ‘outs.’ With five cards showing, that means you need to take the 52-5 so there’s 47 cards left, and 6 outs. Divide 47 by 6 and those are your odds. So in this case, it’s about a 1 in 8 chance that a king or an ace will show up on the turn, and about the same odds on the river. Those aren’t great odds and you should probably fold. Here’s a more complex situation:
|:ac: :kc:||:qc: :jc: :3d:|
Assuming your opponent has a single pair, now not only might a king or ace still give you the top pair, but any ten or club would also give you the top hand. So in figuring your odds, you have 3 aces, 3 kings, 4 tens, and 8 clubs (13, 4 showing, – the ten of clubs, which was already counted). That’s 18 outs with 47 cards left, or about 1 in 2.5. That means there is about a 40% chance of getting the winning card on the turn, and another 40% chance of getting it on the river. These are great odds.
A poker odds calculator is a great way to double check your math, and make sure you are figuring things out correctly. This may seem a little confusing, but you don’t need to know if you’re a 35% favorite, knowing you’re a one in three is good enough. Once you start practicing calculating the odds, this will become second nature and you will watch your game improve. Good luck at the tables!