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TEXAS HOLDEM BASICS
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CALCULATING POT ODDS AND HAND ODDS IN TEXAS HOLDEM
Besides having good starting hand standards, another determinant of whether you should stay in a hand or not are the odds: comparing the pot and hand odds. Ignoring the odds when you play Texas Holdem will decrease your bankroll in the long-run. Always remind yourself there’s no such thing as a bad fold (even as you watch the turn and river make the hand you just mucked into a four of a kind!). You need to value your money dearly – every poorly played hand means you’re taking chips out of your stack and giving them away. Hold onto your chips and fold when you’re beat or when the pot odds are not in your favor and your bankroll will increase. Understanding how to calculate the odds in Texas Holdem is a necessary skill if you want to move beyond being a beginner or intermediate player and to protect your bankroll.
Mathematically inclined players are especially good at calculating and playing according to the odds, and as such, they make exceptional players (particularly in tournaments). But you don’t need a PhD in math to figure out the pot and hand odds in Texas Holdem! We’ll explain here step-by-step how to do both.
CALCULATING ODDS IN TEXAS HOLDEM
Odds in poker are stated as ratios of the negatives (you won’t get your card) to the positives (you will get your card). (You won’t get your card this number of times : you will get your card this number of times.)
1. To get the pot odds, compare the size of the pot with the size of the bet that you need to call to get a ratio. This is like comparing the reward (the pot) with the risk (the wager). If the pot is $18 and you have to wager $3 to stay in the game, the pot odds ratio is $18 to $3, which we then reduce to 6 to 1 (6:1).
The number for the times that you will get your card (the number on the right of the ratio) is always reduced to 1. To get this number, divide both side by the number on the right (when you divide a number by itself, you get 1). For example, if you calculate your odds to be 24:4, divide both sides by 4 and you get: 24 / 4 = 4 and 4 / 4 = 1, so the reduced ratio of 24:4 is 4:1.
2. The next step is to look at your hand to calculate the odds against your hand. If your hand’s odds are 11 to 1, this means that for every twelve times it’s played, you’ll get the cards you need to make your hand once, but you won’t get the cards eleven times.
3. Lastly, compare the odds against your hand with the pot odds. If the odds against the hand are greater, fold. For example, if the odds against your hand are 11:1, and the pot odds are 6:1, you should fold. But if the odds against your hand are 4:1 and the pot is 6:1, you should stay in the hand since, in the long-run, you have a greater chance of winning more often.
The math showing how this affects your bankroll in the long-run is as follows:
a. Pot odds 6:1 and Odds against hand 11:1
This means the hand will win (on average) $6 once and will lose $1 eleven times:
$6 (won) - $11 (lost) = $-5. This produces a deficit of $5, which is not good.
b. Pot odds 11:1 and Odds against hand 6:1
This means the hand will win (on average) $11 once and will lose $1 six times:
$11 (won) - $6 (lost) = $+5. This produces a gain of $5, which is good, so the hand, based on pot odds, should be played.
Here’s one more example: There’s $50 in the pot and you need to call a bet worth $10, so to get the pot odds, the ratio is the amount in the pot to the cost of the bet, giving us: $50 to $10, or 5:1. Your hand’s winning chances (odds against the hand) are 4:1, so in this situation, your hand’s odds are better than the pot odds, thus making this a good bet. If your hand had odds that were higher than 5:1 (such as 6:1), then it would not be a good bet.
This method won’t guarantee you’ll win each and every hand, but over time, it will help to add to your bankroll and certainly won’t bleed it dry.
CALCULATING HAND ODDS IN TEXAS HOLDEM
Figuring out the pot odds is easy enough (just add up the size of the pot and compare it to the size of the current bet), but calculating the odds against your hand is not quite as simple – this is where being good with numbers, or remembering odds charts, or just having a good sense of the odds, comes in handy and can separate the extraordinary players from the really good ones.
To figure out the hand’s odds, you need to know:
1. The total number of cards in the deck (a 52-card deck is used to play Texas Holdem, so the total number of cards is 52). (If you’re playing a poker variant that uses jokers as wild cards, you’ll need to add those cards to the total number of cards in the deck.)
2. The number of ‘outs’ left in the deck – these are cards you need to make your hand strong enough to win. You’d never be allowed to see your opponents’ cards unless you were all-in, so for this example, let’s say you’re all-in on the river with two kings for your hole cards and your opponent has two aces. The only cards that will help your hand (a pair of kings) beat two aces is by getting at least one more king to make a three of a kind. Since you can see your opponent doesn’t have a king in their hand (you turn your cards over when at least one player is all-in and no other players are playing for a side pot), and there isn’t one on the board, you know there are two kings left in the deck, so you have two outs. Because you wouldn’t usually see your opponents’ cards, calculating your outs/odds isn’t an exact science. But you can sometimes make a guess as to what kind of hand your opponents have and if they might have one of your outs, so that helps to reduce the uncertainty a little bit.
3. The number of unseen cards left in the deck that won’t help your hand. So in the above all-in example, you know the deck has 52 cards, and there are two cards in your hand, two in your opponent’s, and four on the board, and there are two cards that will help your hand, so that means the number of unseen cards that won’t help your hand is 42:
[52 cards total] - [2 hole cards] - [opponent’s 2 exposed hole cards because you’re all-in (if you weren’t all-in, they’d be hidden, so you wouldn’t subtract them)] - [4 board cards] - [2 outs] = 42 cards left that won’t give you a winning hand.
STEP-BY-STEP HAND ODDS AND POT ODD CALCULATION FOR TEXAS HOLDEM
Let’s say you have hole cards of J♥ 10♥, the board has A♥ 8♥ 7♣ 3♠ and there is only one opponent. Your opponent bet on the turn, so they might have an ace in their hole cards, but you have two hearts and there are two hearts on the board, so you just need one more heart to show up on the river and you’ll have them beat with a flush. That’s the only hand that can win, because even if the river produces a jack to pair with your highest-ranking hole card, if the opponent does have an ace, you won’t win.
1. Calculate Hand Odds
You need a heart to win (your out). To figure out how many heart cards are left (how many outs), subtract the number of heart cards you can see (4: two in your hand and two on the board) from 13, which is the total number of cards per suit, and you get 9, which is your number of outs.
With a 52-card deck, subtract the number of known cards (in this case, six: two hole cards and four board cards) to get the total of unknown cards, then subtract 9 and you’ll get the number of cards that won’t help your hand, which is 37:
52 (total cards in deck) - 6 known cards = 46 unknown cards
46 unknown cards - 9 outs (cards that will help) = 37 unknown cards that won’t help
Again, poker odds are expressed as negatives to positives (cards that won’t help to cards that will), so when you plug those numbers into the ratio, you get:
37 cards that won’t help to 9 outs/cards that will help. This becomes 37:9.
You then need to reduce the numbers so the number on the right, your outs, is 1. You do this by dividing both sides by the number on the right (in this case, 9):
37 / 9 = 4.1111 Change to 4.
9 / 9 = 1
That gives you odds against your hand of 4:1. Next, you need to calculate the pot odds.
2. Calculate Pot Odds
You need to compare the amount you have to pay to call the bet to the total value of the pot to get the pot odds. Let’s say there’s $60 in the pot and the size of the bet is $10, that means it’s $60 to $10, or 60:10. We then divide both numbers by ten to get 1 on the right, and the reduced number for the pot odds is 6:1.
3. Compare Hand Odds and Pot Odds
Your hand odds are 4:1 and your pot odds are 6:1. Since your hand odds are better than your pot odds, this would be a wise bet.
Don’t worry about having to do this math every time – there are excellent charts on our pot odds charts page for you to study. You don’t need to memorize every hand, but do read over it to get a general idea of what different hands’ odds are.
After you’ve looked over the charts (or print them or bring them up in another window so you can quickly reference them), play online and test them out for yourself and see how playing with pot odds in mind positively affects your bankroll. UltimateBet.com and PokerStars.com are two award-winning sites where you can play Texas Holdem for free. If you’ve never played online poker before, now that you know about pot and hand odds and how following them will increase your bankroll in the long-run, it is the perfect time to sign up at a site and test it out! Both sites offer new members free money to play Texas Holdem (plus sign up bonuses for people who deposit real money into their account for the first time), so start being mindful of the odds and watch your bankroll grow!
Click Here for tables of Texas Holdem odds for pre-flop, pre-turn and pre-river.
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