Key formula to
poker success

Feb 28, 2005 3:41 AM

Carol, I was telling you and the folks in the last column to e-mail me [email protected] if they could not wait to learn what one of the most important math considerations is in playing poker.


I sure was surprised at the number of poker players who could not wait to learn what the answer is. The correct answer is — and always will be — implied odds.

You will recall that in the last column I told about just four suites in a deck of cards. And that there were just 13 cards in each suite and there were just 52 cards in a standard deck.

I reported to you poker players that fourth grade arithmetic was all the math you needed to become a math expert when you played poker.

All the math of poker is inside those numbers: 4 times13 = 52.

But I did tell you that there was one more most important consideration.

Equally important are implied odds.

Now, let’s think about this for just a few minutes and I am sure that you will see what I am referring to.

If you hold the Ac Kc when playing hold em, and the flop comes 9c, 2h, 7c, you now have two chances to make a club flush with the turn car and the river card. So far so good?

Now, fourth grade arithmetic will tell you that there are 13 clubs in the deck; you have two in your hand and there are two in the flop. Therefore, there are 13 minus 4 = 9 clubs remaining in the deck.

The deck had 52 cards in it. You know of five of the original 52 — two are in your hand and the three of the 52 cards of the original deck are the three that are in the flop. The other 47 are still in the stub of the deck.

Now, we know that nine of the remaining cards are clubs, so 47 minus 9 = 38 of them that are not clubs.

So the odds of you making your flush on the turn card (the 4th common card in the flop) becomes nine out of 47 tries or 38-9 against you making the flush on the turn card (we can approximate the odds to 4-1).

Now, if you miss the flush on the turn card you will still have 37-9 to make the flush on the river, whose odds remain about 4-1, or about 2-1 against making the flush on both tries.

Now, let’s let that soak in for a little while and let’s talk a little about pot odds

If the poker chips in the pot contains 40 units from the blinds and bets before flop.

Further assume that you hold Ac Kc and the flop is as stated above, 9c, 2h, 7c.

What is the maximum that you can call and be correct in your call versus the pot odds?

The answer is the odds are 4-1 that you will not make the flush on the turn card. This means that if the hand ended there, the correct call should not exceed 1 unit for ever 4 units that are in the pot.

In other words:

If the bet is 2 units you are getting 20-1 — Yes your reward is greater than 4-1

If the bet is 4 units you are getting 11-1 — Yes, your reward is greater than 4-1

If the bet is 40 units you are getting 2-1 — No, your reward is less than 4-1

You can work out the odds out the same for the river card. If you need help e-mail me!

Now let’s get to that all important implied odds, which changes everything in the poker world. Not so much in limit hold’em, but in no limit hold’em.

Simply stated, implied odds is money that will be bet and increase the pot size with later rounds of betting. Again, it is money that will be bet and will increase the pot size with later rounds of betting.

Lets go back to our example — the bet is 40 units and you are only getting 2-1.

If you hit the flush, more money is going to come into the pot most of the time and this will change your considerations.

The player who bet the 40 units had something to make the bet and most of the time he will still like his hand.

If you catch a club, you now have the stone cold nuts, but the better does not know this. He may move a lot of chips into the pot thinking that he has the best hand, or bluff trying to represent that he has the flush that you are holding.

You are now in the catbird seat.

You may get $100’s or $1,000’s more money into the pots.

This is the secret that the pros don’t want the novices to know. So here is my:

Oklahoma Johnny poker tip of a lifetime

Learn the fourth grade math and use it to make your calls!

If you do this you can go on automatic pilot and you will not have to study to make your call.

But, then consider the implied odds and you may want to stretch the odds once in a while when you can really do well and bust a no limit player and receive many, many times more than the expected return of straight pot odds.

Until next time, remember to stay lucky.