Most of you know what a respectable starting hand is in Texas Holdem; two high cards, pocket pairs or suited connectors. These are great starting hands preflop but what you do with these cards after the flop makes all the difference. Many factors go into determining your play post flop, post turn and of course on the river. Today’s post will discuss the mathematical side of poker. Calculating odds gives you information that will help you determine whether or not to continue with a hand, and remember, information is power! Making decisions based on mathematical odds will be lucrative long term. Whether I’m playing either an MTT or a cash game, once a flop hits I automatically calculate the odds of hitting my hand. It’s become second nature to me and soon enough it will be like second nature to you too. Why? Because it’s so easy to do! I’m an accountant and business manager so without a doubt I am a numbers person but you do not need to be one to become proficient at this. Let’s look at a series of examples of how to calculate your odds both post flop and turn.
I’m holding a KQ of spades. The flop comes ace of spades, 10 of hearts and 2 of spades. I have a nut flush draw and an inside straight draw. What are the odds that I hit one of these great hands? Hmmm…First thing to do is to count how many cards are out there that will complete my hand. 4 spades are showing, so there are 9 left that will give me a flush; 9. There are 4 jacks in this deck that will give me a straight; 4. Nine plus four is thirteen. Surely you don’t need to be an accountant to figure that out. There are 13 cards that will give me a big and most likely winning hand. To determine the odds of hitting one of these cards on the turn you take your 13 outs and multiply that by four. 13 times 4 is 52. I have a 52% chance of hitting my winning hand on the turn. If I do not get my card on the turn, it’s time to calculate the odds of hitting it on the river. You take those same 13 outs and this time multiply them by 2. 13 times 2 is 26. I have a 26% chance of hitting my hand on the river. I can use this information to decide if I want to proceed and invest money in this hand. Remember, information is power!
Let’s look at another example. I have J-J, which is definitely okay. The flop is 4-4-8 rainbow (all different suits). I have an over pair and I’ll come out betting here. The question is, what are the odds of improving my great hand. Any jack or four will give me a full house, and there are two jacks and two fours left. I have 4 outs. Four times four is 16. I have a 16% chance of hitting a full house on the turn and since four times two is eight, I have an 8% chance of hitting that full house on the river.
Finally, the small suited connector. We’re playing with the two and three of hearts. The flop is 4 of spades, 5 of hearts and Q of clubs. Right now I have an open ended straight draw and there are 8 cards in the deck that will give me a straight. After the flop I take the number of cards out there that will help me (8) and multiply that by 4 to get 32. There’s a 32% chance I will hit my straight on the turn. Alas, the turn is a king of hearts. In addition to my open ended straight draw, I also have a flush draw. Now there are 15 cards in the deck that I want. If one of them hits on the river, I’ll have either a straight or a flush. 15x2=30. I now have a 30% chance to hit one of my hands.
By making these easy calculations you’ll know what percent of the time you’ll hit your hand and what percent of the time you won’t. You can use this information to make informed decisions about your game but this is just one piece of the puzzle. Part II of the Math Geeks post will focus on calculating pot odds. Once you are able to calculate both your hand odds and your pot odds, it will be much easier to make decisions about whether or not to continue on with a hand. Long term you’ll win far more pots than you lose when you go with mathematical odds. The combination is pretty much unbeatable over a period of time. You may lose a hand here and there as there's no getting around that, but with consistency you’ll win more than u lose.
Play smart and stayed tuned for Part Two.