In our poker math and probability lesson it was stated that when it comes to poker; “the math is essential“. Although you don’t need to be a math genius to play poker, a solid understanding of probability will serve you well and knowing the odds is what it’s all about in poker. It has also been said that in poker, there are good bets and bad bets. The game just determines who can tell the difference. That statement relates to the importance of knowing and understanding the math of the game.
In this lesson, we’re going to focus on drawing odds in poker and how to calculate your chances of hitting a winning hand. We’ll start with some basic math before showing you how to correctly calculate your odds. Don’t worry about any complex math – we will show you how to crunch the numbers, but we’ll also provide some simple and easy shortcuts that you can commit to memory.
The Odds of Making a Flush Hand in Poker The odds of flopping a Flush with a suited starting hand is 0.82% or 1 in 122 Definition of Flush – We make a Flush by having five cards of the same suit. First introduced in 2011, High Card Flush is a fairly new table game that was inspired by flush rankings in poker. Just like other popular poker-based casino games such as Three Card Poker or Caribbean Stud, High Card Flush is played against a dealer using a 52-card deck.
Basic Math – Odds and Percentages
Odds can be expressed both “for” and “against”. Let’s use a poker example to illustrate. The odds against hitting a flush when you hold four suited cards with one card to come is expressed as approximately 4-to-1. This is a ratio, not a fraction. It doesn’t mean “a quarter”. To figure the odds for this event simply add 4 and 1 together, which makes 5. So in this example you would expect to hit your flush 1 out of every 5 times. In percentage terms this would be expressed as 20% (100 / 5).
Here are some examples:
- 2-to-1 against = 1 out of every 3 times = 33.3%
- 3-to-1 against = 1 out of every 4 times = 25%
- 4-to-1 against = 1 out of every 5 times= 20%
- 5-to-1 against = 1 out of every 6 times = 16.6%
Converting odds into a percentage:
- 3-to-1 odds: 3 + 1 = 4. Then 100 / 4 = 25%
- 4-to-1 odds: 4 + 1 = 5. Then 100 / 5 = 20%
Converting a percentage into odds:
- 25%: 100 / 25 = 4. Then 4 – 1 = 3, giving 3-to-1 odds.
- 20%: 100 / 20 = 5. Then 5 – 1 = 4, giving 4-to-1 odds.
Another method of converting percentage into odds is to divide the percentage chance when you don’t hit by the percentage when you do hit. For example, with a 20% chance of hitting (such as in a flush draw) we would do the following; 80% / 20% = 4, thus 4-to-1. Here are some other examples:
- 25% chance = 75 / 25 = 3 (thus, 3-to-1 odds).
- 30% chance = 70 / 30 = 2.33 (thus, 2.33-to-1 odds).
Some people are more comfortable working with percentages rather than odds, and vice versa. What’s most important is that you fully understand how odds work, because now we’re going to apply this knowledge of odds to the game of poker.
The right kind of practice between sessions can make a HUGE difference at the tables. That’s why this workbook has a 5-star rating on Amazon and keeps getting reviews like this one: “I don’t consider myself great at math in general, but this work is helping things sink in and I already see things more clearly while playing.”
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Counting Your Outs
Before you can begin to calculate your poker odds you need to know your “outs”. An out is a card which will make your hand. For example, if you are on a flush draw with four hearts in your hand, then there will be nine hearts (outs) remaining in the deck to give you a flush. Remember there are thirteen cards in a suit, so this is easily worked out; 13 – 4 = 9.
Another example would be if you hold a hand like and hit two pair on the flop of . You might already have the best hand, but there’s room for improvement and you have four ways of making a full house. Any of the following cards will help improve your hand to a full house; .
The following table provides a short list of some common outs for post-flop play. I recommend you commit these outs to memory:
Table #1 – Outs to Improve Your Hand
The next table provides a list of even more types of draws and give examples, including the specific outs needed to make your hand. Take a moment to study these examples:
Table #2 – Examples of Drawing Hands (click to enlarge)
Counting outs is a fairly straightforward process. You simply count the number of unknown cards that will improve your hand, right? Wait… there are one or two things you need to consider:
Don’t Count Outs Twice
There are 15 outs when you have both a straight and flush draw. You might be wondering why it’s 15 outs and not 17 outs, since there are 8 outs to make a straight and 9 outs for a flush (and 8 + 9 = 17). The reason is simple… in our example from table #2 the and the will make a flush and also complete a straight. These outs cannot be counted twice, so our total outs for this type of draw is 15 and not 17.
Anti-Outs and Blockers
There are outs that will improve your hand but won’t help you win. For example, suppose you hold on a flop of . You’re drawing to a straight and any two or any seven will help you make it. However, the flop also contains two hearts, so if you hit the or the you will have a straight, but could be losing to a flush. So from 8 possible outs you really only have 6 good outs.
It’s generally better to err on the side of caution when assessing your possible outs. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that all your outs will help you. Some won’t, and they should be discounted from the equation. There are good outs, no-so good outs, and anti-outs. Keep this in mind.
Calculating Your Poker Odds
Once you know how many outs you’ve got (remember to only include “good outs”), it’s time to calculate your odds. There are many ways to figure the actual odds of hitting these outs, and we’ll explain three methods. This first one does not require math, just use the handy chart below:
Table #3 – Poker Odds Chart
As you can see in the above table, if you’re holding a flush draw after the flop (9 outs) you have a 19.1% chance of hitting it on the turn or expressed in odds, you’re 4.22-to-1 against. The odds are slightly better from the turn to the river, and much better when you have both cards still to come. Indeed, with both the turn and river you have a 35% chance of making your flush, or 1.86-to-1.
We have created a printable version of the poker drawing odds chart which will load as a PDF document (in a new window). You’ll need to have Adobe Acrobat on your computer to be able to view the PDF, but this is installed on most computers by default. We recommend you print the chart and use it as a source of reference. It should come in very handy.
Doing the Math – Crunching Numbers
There are a couple of ways to do the math. One is complete and totally accurate and the other, a short cut which is close enough.
Let’s again use a flush draw as an example. The odds against hitting your flush from the flop to the river is 1.86-to-1. How do we get to this number? Let’s take a look…
With 9 hearts remaining there would be 36 combinations of getting 2 hearts and making your flush with 5 hearts. This is calculated as follows:
(9 x 8 / 2 x 1) = (72 / 2) ≈ 36.
This is the probability of 2 running hearts when you only need 1 but this has to be figured. Of the 47 unknown remaining cards, 38 of them can combine with any of the 9 remaining hearts:
9 x 38 ≈ 342.
Now we know there are 342 combinations of any non heart/heart combination. So we then add the two combinations that can make you your flush:
36 + 342 ≈ 380.
The total number of turn and river combos is 1081 which is calculated as follows:
(47 x 46 / 2 x 1) = (2162 / 2) ≈ 1081.
Now you take the 380 possible ways to make it and divide by the 1081 total possible outcomes:
380 / 1081 = 35.18518%
This number can be rounded to .352 or just .35 in decimal terms. You divide .35 into its reciprocal of .65:
0.65 / 0.35 = 1.8571428
And voila, this is how we reach 1.86. If that made you dizzy, here is the short hand method because you do not need to know it to 7 decimal points.
The Rule of Four and Two
A much easier way of calculating poker odds is the 4 and 2 method, which states you multiply your outs by 4 when you have both the turn and river to come – and with one card to go (i.e. turn to river) you would multiply your outs by 2 instead of 4.
Imagine a player goes all-in and by calling you’re guaranteed to see both the turn and river cards. If you have nine outs then it’s just a case of 9 x 4 = 36. It doesn’t match the exact odds given in the chart, but it’s accurate enough.
What about with just one card to come? Well, it’s even easier. Using our flush example, nine outs would equal 18% (9 x 2). For a straight draw, simply count the outs and multiply by two, so that’s 16% (8 x 2) – which is almost 17%. Again, it’s close enough and easy to do – you really don’t have to be a math genius.
Do you know how to maximize value when your draw DOES hit? Like…when to slowplay, when to continue betting, and if you do bet or raise – what the perfect size is? These are all things you’ll learn in CORE, and you can dive into this monster course today for just $5 down…
In this lesson we’ve covered a lot of ground. We haven’t mentioned the topic of pot odds yet – which is when we calculate whether or not it’s correct to call a bet based on the odds. This lesson was step one of the process, and in our pot odds lesson we’ll give some examples of how the knowledge of poker odds is applied to making crucial decisions at the poker table.
As for calculating your odds…. have faith in the tables, they are accurate and the math is correct. Memorize some of the common draws, such as knowing that a flush draw is 4-to-1 against or 20%. The reason this is easier is that it requires less work when calculating the pot odds, which we’ll get to in the next lesson.
By Tom 'TIME' Leonard
Tom has been writing about poker since 1994 and has played across the USA for over 40 years, playing every game in almost every card room in Atlantic City, California and Las Vegas.
This post works with 5-card Poker hands drawn from a standard deck of 52 cards. The discussion is mostly mathematical, using the Poker hands to illustrate counting techniques and calculation of probabilities
Working with poker hands is an excellent way to illustrate the counting techniques covered previously in this blog – multiplication principle, permutation and combination (also covered here). There are 2,598,960 many possible 5-card Poker hands. Thus the probability of obtaining any one specific hand is 1 in 2,598,960 (roughly 1 in 2.6 million). The probability of obtaining a given type of hands (e.g. three of a kind) is the number of possible hands for that type over 2,598,960. Thus this is primarily a counting exercise.
Usually the order in which the cards are dealt is not important (except in the case of stud poker). Thus the following three examples point to the same poker hand. The only difference is the order in which the cards are dealt.
These are the same hand. Order is not important.
The number of possible 5-card poker hands would then be the same as the number of 5-element subsets of 52 objects. The following is the total number of 5-card poker hands drawn from a standard deck of 52 cards.
The notation is called the binomial coefficient and is pronounced “n choose r”, which is identical to the number of -element subsets of a set with objects. Other notations for are , and . Many calculators have a function for . Of course the calculation can also be done by definition by first calculating factorials.
Thus the probability of obtaining a specific hand (say, 2, 6, 10, K, A, all diamond) would be 1 in 2,598,960. If 5 cards are randomly drawn, what is the probability of getting a 5-card hand consisting of all diamond cards? It is
This is definitely a very rare event (less than 0.05% chance of happening). The numerator 1,287 is the number of hands consisting of all diamond cards, which is obtained by the following calculation.
The reasoning for the above calculation is that to draw a 5-card hand consisting of all diamond, we are drawing 5 cards from the 13 diamond cards and drawing zero cards from the other 39 cards. Since (there is only one way to draw nothing), is the number of hands with all diamonds.
If 5 cards are randomly drawn, what is the probability of getting a 5-card hand consisting of cards in one suit? The probability of getting all 5 cards in another suit (say heart) would also be 1287/2598960. So we have the following derivation.
Thus getting a hand with all cards in one suit is 4 times more likely than getting one with all diamond, but is still a rare event (with about a 0.2% chance of happening). Some of the higher ranked poker hands are in one suit but with additional strict requirements. They will be further discussed below.
Another example. What is the probability of obtaining a hand that has 3 diamonds and 2 hearts? The answer is 22308/2598960 = 0.008583433. The number of “3 diamond, 2 heart” hands is calculated as follows:
One theme that emerges is that the multiplication principle is behind the numerator of a poker hand probability. For example, we can think of the process to get a 5-card hand with 3 diamonds and 2 hearts in three steps. The first is to draw 3 cards from the 13 diamond cards, the second is to draw 2 cards from the 13 heart cards, and the third is to draw zero from the remaining 26 cards. The third step can be omitted since the number of ways of choosing zero is 1. In any case, the number of possible ways to carry out that 2-step (or 3-step) process is to multiply all the possibilities together.
The Poker Hands
Here’s a ranking chart of the Poker hands.
The chart lists the rankings with an example for each ranking. The examples are a good reminder of the definitions. The highest ranking of them all is the royal flush, which consists of 5 consecutive cards in one suit with the highest card being Ace. There is only one such hand in each suit. Thus the chance for getting a royal flush is 4 in 2,598,960.
Royal flush is a specific example of a straight flush, which consists of 5 consecutive cards in one suit. There are 10 such hands in one suit. So there are 40 hands for straight flush in total. A flush is a hand with 5 cards in the same suit but not in consecutive order (or not in sequence). Thus the requirement for flush is considerably more relaxed than a straight flush. A straight is like a straight flush in that the 5 cards are in sequence but the 5 cards in a straight are not of the same suit. For a more in depth discussion on Poker hands, see the Wikipedia entry on Poker hands.
The counting for some of these hands is done in the next section. The definition of the hands can be inferred from the above chart. For the sake of completeness, the following table lists out the definition.
Definitions of Poker Hands
|1||Royal Flush||A, K, Q, J, 10, all in the same suit|
|2||Straight Flush||Five consecutive cards,|
|all in the same suit|
|3||Four of a Kind||Four cards of the same rank,|
|one card of another rank|
|4||Full House||Three of a kind with a pair|
|5||Flush||Five cards of the same suit,|
|not in consecutive order|
|6||Straight||Five consecutive cards,|
|not of the same suit|
|7||Three of a Kind||Three cards of the same rank,|
|2 cards of two other ranks|
|8||Two Pair||Two cards of the same rank,|
|two cards of another rank,|
|one card of a third rank|
|9||One Pair||Three cards of the same rank,|
|3 cards of three other ranks|
|10||High Card||If no one has any of the above hands,|
|the player with the highest card wins|
Counting Poker Hands
Counting from A-K-Q-J-10, K-Q-J-10-9, Q-J-10-9-8, …, 6-5-4-3-2 to 5-4-3-2-A, there are 10 hands that are in sequence in a given suit. So there are 40 straight flush hands all together.
Four of a Kind
There is only one way to have a four of a kind for a given rank. The fifth card can be any one of the remaining 48 cards. Thus there are 48 possibilities of a four of a kind in one rank. Thus there are 13 x 48 = 624 many four of a kind in total.
Let’s fix two ranks, say 2 and 8. How many ways can we have three of 2 and two of 8? We are choosing 3 cards out of the four 2’s and choosing 2 cards out of the four 8’s. That would be = 4 x 6 = 24. But the two ranks can be other ranks too. How many ways can we pick two ranks out of 13? That would be 13 x 12 = 156. So the total number of possibilities for Full House is
Note that the multiplication principle is at work here. When we pick two ranks, the number of ways is 13 x 12 = 156. Why did we not use = 78?
There are = 1,287 possible hands with all cards in the same suit. Recall that there are only 10 straight flush on a given suit. Thus of all the 5-card hands with all cards in a given suit, there are 1,287-10 = 1,277 hands that are not straight flush. Thus the total number of flush hands is 4 x 1277 = 5,108.
There are 10 five-consecutive sequences in 13 cards (as shown in the explanation for straight flush in this section). In each such sequence, there are 4 choices for each card (one for each suit). Thus the number of 5-card hands with 5 cards in sequence is . Then we need to subtract the number of straight flushes (40) from this number. Thus the number of straight is 10240 – 10 = 10,200.
Three of a Kind
There are 13 ranks (from A, K, …, to 2). We choose one of them to have 3 cards in that rank and two other ranks to have one card in each of those ranks. The following derivation reflects all the choosing in this process.
Two Pair and One Pair
These two are left as exercises.
The count is the complement that makes up 2,598,960.
High Flush Poker Odds Calculator
The following table gives the counts of all the poker hands. The probability is the fraction of the 2,598,960 hands that meet the requirement of the type of hands in question. Note that royal flush is not listed. This is because it is included in the count for straight flush. Royal flush is omitted so that he counts add up to 2,598,960.
Probabilities of Poker Hands
|3||Four of a Kind||624||0.0002401|
|7||Three of a Kind||54,912||0.0211285|
High Flush Poker Odds Chart
2017 – Dan Ma