Know thy (blessed) odds

Jun 26, 2006 2:23 AM

Carol, you know I like to get e-mail’s from readers. Here is one from a preacher (yes, the folks in the clergy play a little poker now and then).


Dear Oklahoma Johnny,

I am an avid reader of your articles and I have to say
I always appreciate the way you write about life and

Your latest article mentioned the odds of hitting your

card on the river and I think the math was very much
simplified as it did not seem to take into account the
cards already burnt and the other cards that the other
players discarded.

Will you please clarify this for me?


Reverend Mike



Thanks for the kind words, Reverend.

Yes, I do try to un-complicate things a little by not going into great detail.

I am trying to remember the column that you referred to — I am almost 80 and have written a few in my day — and nowadays I sometimes forget why I went to the bathroom.

I think I understand the question and will respond in a minute, but first I would like to invite you to my web site,, it is free — just sign my guest book and come on in. Take a look in all the rooms when you have time.

My daughter, Oklahoma Sarah, is the owner of our family poker room and I have requested her to visit with you and invite you to play with the family. Her site is

Now, back to your question.

Rev. Mike, when you are computing the odds of the success of a draw, it does not matter where the cards are that you have not seen.

They may be burned cards or discards or the remaining cards in the deck.

All unknown cards must be considered in the math of the odds.

Now, you just subtract the known cards from a full deck of 52 cards and you will have the remaining cards that can help or hurt your hand.

Example: You have two pocket 8s and you have seen the flop of K-2-7. Therefore, you’ve seen five cards. Take that away from the deck of 52 and you have 47 unknown cards.

It does not matter where they are, but you know there are two remaining 8s somewhere.

So take those two unknown 8s from the unknown 47 cards and you have 45 cards that can’t be 8s.

So, on the turn card it is 45-to-2 that you will receive an 8 or about 22.5-to-1.

Now, if you didn’t catch an 8 on the turn, then on the river you now have 44 unknown cards that create odds of 44-to-2 of catching an 8, or about 22-1.

Thanks for the question Revered, just e-mail me anytime and I will try to explain any poker question to you.

I am not always perfect, but I am close to the odds. It goes with my Ok-J rule of thumb: it is close enough for government work or to get the money in a poker game.

OK-J Poker Tip of the Week

I have been accused at times of being a poker preacher and, yes, I do notice the difference in the folks that pray in church!

And for those that pray for a winning card on the river, the difference is this: "The poker player really means his prayer, for that river card from the poker god."

Until next time remember to stay lucky.