You’ve read the books and articles where the poker writers state the odds of making certain hands. For example: making an open end (outside) straight draw is 5 to 1, a flush draw is 4.2 to 1, and a gutshot (inside) straight draw is 11 to 1. Playing Texas Hold’em there are many variations in the odds to be learned such as what’s the difference in the odds if the next card is the turn (4th card) or the river (5th card)?
But let’s look at the logic and math behind these calculations to determine if they are of any value to us as poker players. How are the odds of 5 to 1 calculated for an open end straight draw? To successfully complete the straight we need one of eight cards, four on either end of our four-card straight. How many cards remain unseen? We started with 52, 8 of them are useful to us and we see four of them in our partially completed straight. So, the experts say 52 minus 8 minus 4 leaves us with 40 unseen cards, which are of no value to us. Therefore 40 failures to 8 successes works out to 5 to 1 odds. And I say GARBAGE. Your actual odds could be much higher or much lower.
Let’s say you’re playing in a ring game with ten at the table. That means that twenty cards have been dealt plus three for the flop and one has been “burned” by the Pokerace99. If all of the eight cards you need to complete a straight have already been dealt to other players, your chances of making your straight are ZERO, and your odds according to mathematicians are infinite. On the other hand, what happens if all of your eight cards remain in the pack the dealer is holding? The dealer holds 52 less 20 dealt to the players less 3 for the flop less 1 burned or 28 cards. So now calculate your odds: 20 cards that won’t help and 8 cards that will, which works out to 2.5 to 1. Quite a difference!
Instead of flatly assuming we need 8 cards to play a straight, mathematicians teach us that we need to consider the chance that we might need only 4.5 cards, since our odds are only 8 to 4. Instead of 4.5 to 1, we need to return the less when figuring out our odds, so we need to figure it out by 3. Or, to make it even more simple, we can return 1.5 cards, which works out to 3 outs. Essentialy, we now have 3 chances to complete our straight, which decreases the odds considerably.
Instead of flatly assuming we need X amount of cards to make a straight, we should return the probability of having the best hand as a percentage. Since our odds are only 8 to 4, then the percentage is 52.5%, which matches the cards we need. As well, we correctly calculate our odds; it’s the ratio of the probability of hitting our hand as compared to the probability of not making our hand.
Instead of “built in” odds, such as a flush draw where the odds are 10 to 1, we should calculate the odds using a more complex formula. Since our goal is to make a flush, not just to win a hand, we should multiply the number of outs by 4. Since our goal is to win a larger pot or at least break even, the odds that we need to hit our flush are a lot higher, and this turns our odds from 8 to 4 into 11 to 1. The more outs we have, the more we increase our odds and the closer we are to making our flush.
While it requires more thinking skill and rather complicated strategies, becoming a better texas hold ‘em flop odds player can be fairly easy.