Last week, we looked at the simple truth behind becoming a professional poker player: make enough money playing poker to live your life. This week, we’ll apply this profound pillar of profit and take a look at poker odds.

It’s no secret that the online poker world is a kingdom of SEO protocol. One of the great SEO “phrases” in my line of work is “poker odds.” Why? Because every single player who actually decides to take poker playing seriously enough to want to maximize their profits, goes to google and searches “poker odds.”

Examining the odds behind a situation at the poker table is almost like looking at the bottom line in the corporate business world (in fact, they even came up with a fancy theory about the overlap between so-called games like poker and serious endeavors like business, it’s called “Game Theory.”) You are taking human emotion out of the equation (at least theoretically) and committing yourself to a long-term strategy.

A ton goes into the entirety of probability in poker including factoring in your opponent’s style, position, tournament v. cash game – oodles and oodles of variables, way too much for a single article (we’ve got a whole section dedicated to it as well, follow this link: poker odds.) So let’s zero in on just one subheading under the umbrella of poker odds in NL Hold’em: take a flop.

I must have written about this 5 times in the past year not to mention once in the past sentence, but at the risk of redundancy: take a flop.

Let’s put you in an imaginary game of $2/$4 NL Hold’em at Party Poker. Let’s put you on the big blind with $115 at the table. Let’s put a raise in front of you.

The first thing to remember in calculating poker odds is the Limit structure of the game you are playing. No Limit games should tell you that the implied odds behind your decision are in the favor of getting huge value for a monster hand. What I mean to say is, you may take a flop with something less than stellar like 9-5 but in that one out of 20 or so flops where you drill a totally hidden two pair (who is going to put you on two pair on a K 9 5 flop? And what if your opponent has AK or AA – nasty…) then you are going to get some arbitrage value because you have no limits holding back your bet size (geeky business joke.)

So, you’re on Party Poker, you’ve got $4 already committed and are facing a raise to $10 (and thus, a call of $6.) The pot is $16 (blinds + raise to $10) so you would be calling $6 into what would become a $22 pot (the value of the pot in addition to your call.) $6 into $22 would mean that in order to break even over the long haul (and remember, you are a professional player in a cash game, you are not worried about going broke in the short term and are invested in a long term strategy of making money playing poker) you would have to win that hand without investing any more money more than 6/22 (27%) of the time.

How do you determine whether or not you’ll win that pot 27% of the time? Put your opponent on a hand and weigh that hand against what you have. Say you put your opponent on AK and you’ve got J4, you would have about a 35% chance of outright victory, so if you were being asked to put $6 in to win $22 with a 35% chance of victory 100 times, then you would eventually come out with a profit!

Of course, that’s without factoring in the additional value of hitting a disguised monster and/or flat outplaying your opponent – plus the guy could be bluffing.

So for the love of God, at least call!

Take a flop with virtually any two cards (Doyle Brunson won 2 WSOP Main Events holding 10-2 off suit) because even though you may not have the best hand going into the flop, factoring in the long term potential for understanding poker odds in poker decisions should have you in more flops when facing standard raises in the big blind.

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