How Do Poker Odds Work?

Like any form of gambling, understanding your odds is incredibly important in poker. Not only does knowing your odds prevent you from making bad decisions, but it can also be the difference between winning and losing. Being able to calculate and understand your odds when playing poker will let you know whether you are in a good or a bad position. This will then allow you to make informed decisions and, hopefully, secure a win. 

As an example – you have two diamonds in your hand and there are two diamonds on the flop. Your odds here for making a flush are around 2 to 1, which means you can expect to hit a flush approximately every three hands. Having this information can help you make your move and potentially give you an advantage over other players.

How to Calculate Poker Outs

Another key set of odds you will want to learn to calculate to be successful in poker is your ‘out’ odds. Outs are any cards in the deck that can help improve your hand. For example, if you have two hearts in your hand, and there are two hearts in the flop, then your outs are nine. This is because there are 13 hearts card in the deck, four are visible, so there are potentially nine left to be dealt.

Poker Odds and Outs chart

Important ‘Outs’ Terms 

Backdoor: A straight or flush draw where you need two cards to help your hand out.
You have [A K]. Flop shows [T 2 5]. You need both a [J] and [Q] for a straight.

Overcard Draw: When you have a card above the flop.
You have [A 3]. Flop shows [K 5 2]. You need a [A] overcard to make top pair. 3 total outs.

Inside Straight Draw (aka ‘Gutshot’): When you have one way to complete a straight.
You have [J T]. Flop shows [A K 5]. You need a [Q] to complete your straight. 4 total outs.

Open Straight Draw: When you have two ways to complete a straight.
You have [5 6]. Flop shows [7 8 A]. You need a [4] or [9] to complete your straight. 8 total outs.

Flush Draw: Having two cards to a suit with two suits already on the flop.
You have [A K]. Flop shows [7 8 J]. You need any heart to make a flush. 9 total outs.

Calculating Poker Odds and Hand Odds

Now that we have identified what poker outs are, we are ready to move on to the calculating of our poker odds. Use this exact section from our page:

To calculate your hand odds, you first need to know how many outs your hand has. An out is defined as a card in the deck that helps you make your hand. If you hold [A K] and there are two spades on the flop, there are 9 more spades in the deck (since there are 13 cards of each suit). This means you have 9 outs to complete your flush – but not necessarily the best hand! Usually, you want your outs to count toward a nut (best hand) draw, but this is not always possible.

The quick amongst you might be wondering “But what if someone else is holding a spade, doesn’t that decrease my number of outs?”. The answer is yes (and no!). If you know for sure that someone else is holding a spade, then you will have to count that against your total number of outs. However, in most situations you do not know what your opponents hold, so you can only calculate odds with the knowledge that is available to you. That knowledge is your pocket cards and the cards on the table. So, in essence, you are doing the calculations as if you were the only person at the table – in that case, there are 9 spades left in the deck.

When calculating outs, it’s also important not to overcount your odds. An example would be a flush draw in addition to an open straight draw.

Example: You hold [J T] and the board shows [8 Q K]. A Nine or Ace gives you a straight (8 outs), while any diamond gives you the flush (9 outs). However, there is an [A] and a [9], so you don’t want to count these twice toward your straight draw and flush draw. The true number of outs is actually 15 (8 outs + 9 outs – 2 outs) instead of 17 (8 outs + 9 outs).

In addition to this, sometimes an out for you isn’t really a true out. Let’s say that you are chasing an open ended straight draw with two of one suit on the table. In this situation, you would normally have 8 total outs to hit your straight, but 2 of those outs will result in three to a suit on the table. This makes a possible flush for your opponents. As a result, you really only have 6 outs for a nut straight draw. Another more complex situation follows:

Example:You hold [J 8]o (off-suit, or not of the same suit) and the flop comes [9 T J] rainbow (all of different suits). To make a straight, you need a [Q] or [7] to drop, giving you 4 outs each or a total of 8 outs. But, you have to look at what will happen if a [Q] drops, because the board will then show [9 T J Q]. This means that anyone holding a [K] will have made a King-high straight, while you hold the second-best Queen-high straight.

So, the only card that can really help you is the [7], which gives you 4 outs, or the equivalent of a gut-shot draw. While it’s true that someone might not be holding the [K] (especially in a short or heads-up game), in a big game, it’s a very scary position to be in.

Poker Odds Chart

 

Outs One Card % Two Card % One Card Odds Two Card Odds Draw Type
1 2% 4% 46 23 Backdoor Straight or Flush (Requires two cards)
2 4% 8% 22 12 Pocket Pair to Set
3 7% 13% 14 7 One Overcard
4 9% 17% 10 5 Inside Straight / Two Pair to Full House
5 11% 20% 8 4 One Pair to Two Pair or Set
6 13% 24% 6.7 3.2 No Pair to Pair / Two Overcards
7 15% 28% 5.6 2.6 Set to Full House or Quads
8 17% 32% 4.7 2.2 Open Straight
9 19% 35% 4.1 1.9 Flush
10 22% 38% 3.6 1.6 Inside Straight & Two Overcards
11 24% 42% 3.2 1.4 Open Straight & One Overcard
12 26% 45% 2.8 1.2 Flush & Inside Straight / Flush & One Overcard
13 28% 48% 2.5 1.1
14 30% 51% 2.3 0.95
15 33% 54% 2.1 0.85 Flush & Open Straight / Flush & Two Overcards
16 34% 57% 1.9 0.75
17 37% 60% 1.7 0.66

Poker Odds in Practice: Should I Call the Bet?

Understanding how odds work is one thing, but being able to use them in a real-life poker situation is a different beast. Let’s take a look at a practical example of when to call a bet or not.

Let’s say you have been drawn a hand with two hearts, and there is a heart on the flop. You will then need to calculate your odds. It is important to point out that many players have a tendency to miscalculate their odds unintentionally. This is because they assume there will be no bet on the turn. For a flush draw, the odds will be around 1.9/1 that the flush will complete. You should only call a 1.9 on the flop if your opponent lets you see the turn and river cards for one call. This is unlikely, so calculating the pot odds from the flop to the river is not the smartest move. Instead, calculate them one card at a time.

This is not as difficult as it sounds. All you need to do is calculate each card with the same odds you are using from the turn to the river. For example, if the odds are 4/1 to form a flush from the turn to the river, then operate under the same 4/1 odds for the flop to the turn.

Example of Incorrect Pot Odds Math

You Hold: Flush Draw

Flop: $10 Pot + $10 Bet

You Call: $10 (getting 2 to 1 odds)

Turn: $30 Pot + $10 Bet

You Call: $10 (getting 4 to 1 odds)

Long-Term Results Over 100 Hands

Cost to Play = 100 Hands * ($10 Flop Call + $10 Turn Call) = $2,000

Total Won = 100 Hands * 35% Chance to Win * $50 Pot = $1,750

Total Net = $1,750 (Won) – $2,000 (Cost)

           = -$250 Profit

           = -$2.5/Hand

Example of Correct Pot Odds Math

You Hold: Flush Draw

Flop: $30 Pot + $10 Bet

You Call: $10 (getting 4 to 1 odds)

Turn: $50 Pot + $16 Bet

You Call: $16 (getting about 4 to 1 odds)

Long-Term Results Over 100 Hands

Cost to Play = 100 Hands * ($10 Flop Call + $16 Turn Call) = $2,600

Total Won = 100 Hands * 35% Chance to Win * $82 Pot = $2,870

As you can see, over the course of 100 hands, calling a flush draw with 2/1 odds will actually lead to long term loss, despite many players feeling as though these odds are good. Things can get a little more difficult when implied value comes into play. This is a technique used that involves taking into account future betting and whether your opponent is likely to call on the river.

Poker player on black background

The Four and Two Rule

The Four and Two rule, sometimes referred to as the 2/4 rule, is one of the most reliable and easy methods of working out your odds hitting your desired draw on the turn and river. After the dealer has drawn the flop, calculate the number of outs left in the deck. Once you have done this, multiply the number of outs by four to get the percentage chances of you being dealt a winning card on the turn or river.

For example, if there are 8 outs, then the percentage of you drawing one is 8×4 – 32%. After the turn, you can multiply the number of outs by 2 to give you your percentage odds. So if there are still 8 outs, then your odds are now 16%.

Now you have the percentage odds – you can work out the ratio odds. This is done by dividing the 100 by the percentage and then subtracting 1. For example – 100/32= around 3, so -1 and you have odds of 2/1.