Poker Lesson

Pot odds, part III:... and what are the cards odds?
In the two previous lessons, I have taught you the basics of figuring out pot odds; but when exactly do you need to figure them out?

The answer is that they must be seen and evaluated in relation to the chance of winning the pot with the hand you can make – something that is usually expressed in the term "card odds".

You must therefore – in order to become a top player – also learn about card odds. To put it succinctly, card odds express the ratio between the remaining unknown cards which do not help you, and the remaining unknown cards which do help you.

Let us assume that you have the Ace and Jack of clubs in hand, and that the board, efter the turn (= four cards), is King of diamonds – Six of clubs – Nine of clubs – Two of spades. If the remaining card, the river card, is a club card, then you have hit your flush.

How many of the remaining cards will let you hit your flush? Obviously the 9 remaining unseen club cards in the deck. Right now, you only have information about six cards: your own two, and the four open cards on the table. This means that out of the total of 52 cards in the deck, 46 are unknown to you. Out of these 46 cards, 9 will give you the finished flush, while 37 of them will not give you the flush. Thus the card odds are 37 to 9, the equivalent of 4,1 to 1 – slightly worse than 4 to 1.

To put it in another way, you will in this particular situation hit your flush not quite one time in five – the other four times (slightly more often, in fact), you will fail to do so.

Another example is if you have two pair, and can estimate fairly accurately that you are up against a made flush; thus you need to hit a full house to beat that flush. Let us say that your hole cards are K-Q, and that the board after the turn is King of clubs – Queen of hearts – Two of clubs – Seven of clubs; you have two pairs, but you are sure that your opponent hit his flush in clubs on the turn. Now what are your card odds? Out of the remaining 46 cards in the deck, only 4 (the two remaining Kings and the two remaining Queens) will help you, while the remaining 42 will not. Thus your card odds are 42 to 4, the equivalent of 10,5 to 1. Not very good card odds, by the way.

It is this number expressing the card odds, in the two examples here 4,1 to 1 and 10,5 to 1 respectively, which you must put in relation to the pot odds and evaluate. More about this in the next lesson!

And until then, it is well worth it to contemplate American poker theoretician Mike Caro's classical piece of advice: "In poker, you do not get paid for winning pots; you get paid for making the right decisions."