What do we mean by “odds?”
Odds – the likelihood of a particular event – are essential in any game of chance, including life and the game of poker.
What are the odds of walking across a busy street without being struck by a car? (Best they are much in your favor.) What are the odds of making the nut flush when you catch two more spades to go with your A-K of spades in the hole?
In poker, we are concerned with the poker odds, which consist of two sets of odds:
Card: What are the odds against making the nut flush after you flop four spades while you hold, for example, the Ace and King of spades?
Pot odds: How many chips are in compared to your cost to call to see the next card or two?
It’s really easy to figure the card odds. You can do it in your head. For example, with four-to-the-nut-flush, start by counting your outs – how many unseen cards are there that will make the flush for you? In this case, there are nine more spades, one of which is waiting for you (hopefully). That gives you nine good outs.
There is also the chance another Ace, giving you top pair, or another King may do the trick as well. That would give you six more outs, for a total of 15. But, how sure are you a pair of Aces or Kings would be strong enough to take this pot?
What if an opponent caught two-pair or a set on the river; or a straight? So, let’s give half value to the 6 outs for another Ace or King. Now, we total up 9 + 3 = 12 outs.
Knowing the number of outs, we can easily calculate the card odds: After the flop, there are 47 (that’s 52 — 5) remaining, unseen cards. Twelve of these help your hand; so 35 don’t. Your card odds, then, are 35/12 or approximately 3-to-1 against making your hand.
If you expect to stay to see both the turn and river, then you have two chances to connect; so the card odds are about half of that (1.5-to-1 against). Note: You can also estimate these card odds by using the 4-2 Rule, which we will address in a later column.
By the way, in case you need it, there are lots of tables available that list the card odds for each value of outs.
Estimating the pot odds is even easier: Make a rough count of how many chips are in the pot after your opponent has made his bet; then divide that number by how much you will have to “invest” to call that bet. For example, let’s assume it’s a $4-$8 limit game, and there is $20 (chips) in the pot after your opponent bets $4. Your pot odds, then, are $20/$4 = 5-to-1.
Pot vs. Card Odds: Now, simply compare these numbers: the pot odds of 5-to-1 are higher than the card odds of 3-to-1 against. So long as the pot odds exceed the card odds, you have a Positive Expectation and, by calling, will win money over the long run.
By analogy, it’s like a coin toss where you are paid $5 when you win, but only pay $3 when you lose. What a great Return on Investment (ROI)! How can you beat it.
Poker odds key to success and easy to figure while playing
What do we mean by “odds?”