Calculating the odds in Texas Holdem Poker is far from rocket science. To the contrary, it’s actually rather simple. There are two core concepts that you need to be aware of to calculate odds, and we’ll teach you both in about 5 minutes:
- Pot size.
Outs, in Poker, refer to the number of cards that will complete your hand. For example, you could have AK and the flop is QJ5. You require any of the remaining 10s to complete your hand. There are four tens in the deck, therefore you have four outs.
Another example, you’re holding 89 of spades, and the flop is 4s, 5s, and 10c. There are 13 spades in the deck, you’ve already got four out there (2 in your hand, 2 on the board), therefore you’ve got nine outs.
Pot size simply refers to the amount of money within the pot. Too easy. Here’s an example: there’s 12$ within the pot, Player A then bets 4$, Player B calls, Player C folds, and now it’s your decision. How much is in the pot? Well, there’s the 12 in there, the 4 from Player A, the 4 from Player B. 12+4+4 = 20$. Again, too easy. If this all sounds like poker sites 101 and beginner poker info, we just want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Now that you’ve got the basics covered, and you’re ready to do the hard(er) part… Actually calculating your ‘pot odds.’
Let’s say you get dealt J-10 offsuit. You call the big blind of $6 and so does one other player. The small blind folds. The player in the big blind checks. That means the POT SIZE is $21 ($6 + $6 + $6 + $3). The flop comes out Q-2-9. You’ve got an open-ended straight draw. Either a King or an eight will make your straight. Since there are four Kings and four eights in the deck, you’ve got EIGHT OUTS.
There are 47 unknown CARDS in the deck (52 cards minus the five that you see).
You’re second to act. The first player bets $12. That means $12 is the CURRENT BET AMOUNT.
The POT SIZE is $21 + $12 + UNKNOWN. The unknown is what the player after you does…
So there you have it… those are the four pieces of information you need. The only thing you don’t know for SURE is the pot size in this example.
Sometimes you’ll know the pot size exactly (like when you have good positioning). Other times you’ll just have to estimate.
OK, let’s do some odds.
THE WAY TO CALCULATE ODDS IS TO COMPARE THE ODDS OF MAKING YOUR HAND TO THE ODDS OF THE POT.
Here’s the exact “formula”:
(Unknown Cards – Outs) : Outs
Pot Size : Current Bet Amount
If the first comparison is smaller than the second one, that’s good. It means that “pot odds justify a call” (or raise).
For instance, if you have 12 outs and there are 47 unknown cards, that means you have ABOUT a 25% chance of “making” your hand.
The odds against you are 35:12, or about 3:1.
Remember… when you see two numbers like X:X, the first number is the chance of one thing happening against the chance of the second thing happening. You’ll miss your hand three times and make it once. That’s 1/4 or 25% or 3:1.
Now let’s say the pot size is $50 and the current bet amount is $10. That means the odds would be $50:$10, or 5:1.
It’s easiest to look at in the X:X format and not use percentages.
OK, so here’s what you’ve got for this example:
Outs = 12
Unknown Cards = 47
Current Bet Amount = 10
Pot Size = 50
There are 35 cards that WON’T HELP YOU (47 – 12).
So the odds are 35:12 for the cards.
And for the pot it’s 50:10. You don’t add your $10to the first number. Just use the current pot size.
35:12 is about 3:1. 50:10 equals 5:1.
The entire point of calculating odds is to make a good decision. To make a decision of whether or not to call a $10 bet here, you would compare the 3:1 versus 5:1.
The odds here are IN YOUR FAVOR.
If this scenario played out four times, here’s how it would look STATISTICALLY:
- You lose $10.
- You lose $10.
- You win $50.
- You lose $10.
You lose three times and win once (3:1). When you add your losses it equals $30 but your wins are $50, giving you a $20 profit.
If the scenario happened eight times you’d win twice and lose six times. That means you’d lose $60 and win $100… for a $40 profit.
For real life poker situations, the key is to calculate whether or not you can “justify” staying in the hand.
Let’s say you have A-8 and the flop comes out:
Someone bets $10 and the pot size is $20. What should you do?
Well, you don’t have anything but an Ace high. If the Ace comes on the turn, you’d have top pair. So let’s ASSUME that your top pair would be the winning hand.
That means there are three cards in the deck that can help you (the other three Aces). And there are exactly 47 unknown cards in the deck.
So we have our numbers:
Outs = 3
Unknown Cards = 47
Current Bet Amount = 10
Pot Size = 20
Using our formula…
(47 – 3) : 3
20 : 10
So the numbers come out 44:3 (about 15:1) versus 2:1. Should you call?
Of course not.
You’re only getting 2:1 for your money but your chances of winning the hand are very slim.
If the hand played out 16 times you would win ONCE. So you’d lose $150 (15 X $10) and win $20, for a total loss of $130.
You’re always striving for good odds on your money and good odds on your hand.
Good odds on your hand means the X:X number is as SMALL AS POSSIBLE… because you want lots of outs. You don’t want there to be only one or two cards in the deck that can help you. You want fractions like 47:12, 46:10, 46:8, and so on.
Good odds on your money means the X:X number is BIG. You want 10:1, 5:1, 12:1, and so on.
OK, I’m going to give one more example. See if you’re smart enough to figure this out on your own (you may need to use a scratch piece of paper)…
You’re second to act pre-flop and look down to see Kc-Jc. You limp-in by calling the $4 big blind.
Three other players call. The small blind (who put in $2) folds.
The player in the big blind decides to RAISE the pot to $8. You call. Two of the other three players call… but one folds.
So now there are four players total in the hand… the guy in the big blind, you, and the two other callers. (Still with me here?)
The flop comes out:
What a great flop for you. You’ve got the nut flush draw.
The player in the big blind is first to act. He checks. You check also (which I would NOT recommend doing here, by the way).
The next player bets $16. The next one calls. The guy who made the original pre-flop raise folds.
So now the action is on to you.
What is the…
Number of outs? Number of unknown cards? Current bet amount? Pot size?
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…
Should you call?
See if you can figure it out before I give you the answer.
Yes, you should call.
The pot size is $70. The current bet amount is $16. The number of outs is 9. And the number of unknown cards is 47.
The pot size was the hardest thing to figure out. Remember… the small blind folded his $2. Another player folded their $4. So there was $6 in the middle, plus $32 with the four callers. So $38 before the flop.
Then there were two players in for $16 after the flop, which equals $32. $38 + $32 = $70. Luckily, there weren’t any other players left to act after you in this exact round of betting.
The number of outs is simple. Thirteen clubs in the deck minus the four you already see equals nine. And the number of unknown cards is 52 minus the five you see… which equals 47.
Plugging those numbers into our handy “formula” gives us:
(47-9):9 Versus 70:16
That’s equal to 38:9 versus 70:16
Now you might be wondering, “How the hell am I supposed to know what 70 divided by 16 is or 38 divided by 9? It’s not like I’ll have a calculator handy at the table!”
But you don’t have to know the EXACT numbers. All you need to know is if the second one is bigger than the first. And that’s pretty easy.