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April 04, 2005

Calculating Poker Hand Odds and Pot Odds

Posted at April 4, 2005 04:19 PM in Beginner Topics , by Greedy Gecko.

The prerequisite knowledge for calculating odds is an understanding of your outs. See discussion of outs.

Once you know your outs, then it is important to compare your odds of hitting an out against the pot odds being offered. Let’s begin by looking at our odds of hitting. Don’t worry, there is no need to calculate odds, nor do you have to be a mathematical genius. When I began playing online poker, I taped the following sheet up on my desk, and consulted it as needed until it was memorized.

The sheet indicates your percentage chance of hitting, and then that percent converted to an odd format. Knowing the odds is more useful because then you can perform easy comparisons to the pot odds you are receiving in the hand. In order to quickly convert percentages into odds, divide the chance of you not hitting by your chances of hitting. For example, if you have a 20% chance, then 80/20 yields odds of 4 to 1. So you lose 4 times for every 1 you win.

If you play live games regularly, then clearly you cannot be referring to your sheet. The easiest way to approximate the odds your are receiving is by using the 4-2 method. If you are on the flop and there are two cards remaining (the turn and the river), then multiply your number of outs by 4. This is roughly the percentage chance you have of hitting. If one card remains (the river), then multiply the outs times 2. The 4-2 shortcut is not exact, but is certainly close enough for estimation purposes. Download the attached spreadsheet for a comparison of true odds versus the shortcut.

Pot Odds
For long-term, statistically correct play, you must compare the pot odds you are being offered to your statistical odds of hitting. A simple example of the concept is flipping a coin. Your odds of victory are 1 to 1. However, if someone offered you $1 when it falls heads, and you must pay $.50 when tails, then you are receiving odds of 2 to 1 (1/.50). Whenever the pot odds you are receiving are greater than the odds of hitting your outs, you are in a favorable long-run situation.

In order to calculate your pot odds in a poker hand, assume that there is $5 in the pot, and your opponent bets $2.5. You are receiving 3 to 1 pot odds.

Don’t worry if all this seems foreign and difficult. It is an extremely easy concept to grasp and execute once you get some practice.

The Greedy Gecko