Poker has long been considered a game of chance, but the truth is that the skill and mathematical background needed to be able to opt for the highest winnings also have a lot to say. In poker, not only luck decides the results, and that is why poker enthusiasts try to expand their mathematical knowledge. In this way, we enter a field where probability and statistics are key.
From this point on, poker becomes more a mathematical game than a game of chance, since it involves numerous factors related to this discipline. We are going to explain how to calculate poker odds in the main game modalities.
All poker strategy is based on probability, and for that reason mastering its calculation is essential if you want to win in a constant and sustained manner over time.
In mathematics, the most common way of representing probabilities is through percentages, and in poker when we refer to probabilities we usually speak of ratios. For example, the winning ratio of a player is the probability of a given subject to obtain a specific profit in a game, something that is calculated based on the probabilities he has had in previous games and the results he has obtained.
Normally, in poker a very comfortable monosyllabic anglicism is used to refer to this complex concept: odds. But in Spanish it does not have a literal translation either: it is associated rather to a dynamic, to a set of poker features on which the odds that each player handles in poker are based. There are even those who translate odds as the odds against a given event occurring.
As always, all this is best seen with an example: when a coin is flipped, there is a 50% chance that it will land on one side. In other words, the odds of the coin coming up tails are 1 to 1. In other words, there is a chance that it will come up heads versus a chance that it will not. These are the odds in poker, and there is a way to learn how to calculate them.
Although there are mathematical aspects in which not everyone enters (nor is it necessary) to know how to manage with ease in a poker game and aspire to win a good prize, knowing how to calculate the odds in a Texas Hold’em poker game is non-negotiable. You have to know how to do it, for the simple reason that your opponents will surely do it. Imagine the strategic disadvantage you would be at if you were the only one who did not know how to calculate the odds. It would be little short of tactical suicide.
It is also worth thinking that knowing how to calculate the odds in poker (in Texas Hold’em or in any other modality) is basic to know how the strategic dynamics of poker work. No good strategy in poker works if you do not know the probability that something will not happen. Therefore, it is essential to know how to calculate the odds, since based on this result a player can shape his next moves with greater or lesser guarantees.
Based on the odds calculations a player can know when continuing with a hand is not profitable or identify the optimal time to make a withdrawal. A very important aspect to give a practical function to these calculations is to compare the size of the bet to be placed with the money in the pot. In these calculations it is necessary to include the money of the opponent’s bet so that the result is as close as possible.
Let’s imagine that to opt for a prize of 60 euros we have to bet 10 and that we have odds of 5 to 1 with a combination of jack and queen cards. We can go without problems, because the odds to form a straight with those cards are 5:1 and the pot at that moment is at 6:1. That long term play is very positive and only a very bad streak, one of those not seen for a long time, could break that trend.
But things would be different if the pot odds were 3:1. In that case it would be advisable to be more cautious and even be conservative and withdraw from the hand. Although the implicit odds could change that result, the truth is that the most prudent thing would be not to go and withdraw.
To calculate the odds, we must use a very simple mathematical rule: we must divide the total number of cards that at that moment are still to be seen by the number of those cards that go well (the outs) to complete the play. For example, if we take the example above and we have a jack and a queen, and in the flop, we have a king, a 10 and a 3, to complete the game we can use a 9 or an ace. That is to say, among the 47 cards left in the deck, there are 8 that we could use to complete the move.
The calculation would be made as follows: 47/8 gives rise to 6. That is, at that time for every time a straight appears, five times it will not come out. The odds will therefore be 5:1. This data changes at different times of the game, and these are calculations that have to be made during the game in a very conscientious and detailed way so as not to make mistakes.
Without any doubt. The odds in poker are everything and it is essential that you learn to handle them with ease. Every strategy is based on this principle and that is why it is important to know how to calculate odds in poker. But along with this you also have to manage other aspects that are closely related to the odds. For example, the outs. The outs are the cards that are good for us at a certain time to complete the play.
All these concepts have an added numerical value that we must know how to handle and that can indicate how suitable a certain strategy may or may not be at a given moment. And we must also take into account the so-called implicit odds, a term that refers to the possibility of getting more money in the next betting round after having completed the play. And there are times when we will go to a hand without having the odds in our favor because we think that, if the card that comes out goes well, we will be able to win much more money in the next betting turn.
But this is not an exact science, and it may also depend on the opponents and their style of play, as well as the role they adopt during the games. There are always weaker opponents, stronger opponents and some will always play one way or the other, so it pays to keep an eye on how the game is developing.
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