Arts & Entertainment

Daniel Negreanu on Poker: Poker Math Made Easy

Take a deep breath and relax. You don’t need a PhD in mathematics to be a successful poker player. All you need to do is learn a few simple math tricks that will enable you to play fundamentally sound poker.

For example, in No Limit Texas Hold’em, you need to learn how to calculate pot odds.

Pot odds is a term that defines the odds being laid for you to call a bet. For example, if there’s $400 in the pot and your opponent bets $100, your pot odds are 5-to-1 since it will cost you $100 to win $500 (the $400 already in the pot plus the $100 bet made by your opponent). That’s pretty easy, right?

The next step is to determine the odds of catching a card that could win you the pot. You do that by counting the number of outs – cards that will improve your hand.

Okay, here we go.

With nine outs on the flop, you’ll be about a 2-to-1 underdog to win the pot. This rule is helpful in situations where you flop a flush draw. Say you played 6h-7h and the flop came Kh-Jh-3d. If your opponent bets, you’ll be about a 2-to-1 underdog to make the flush. The odds are definitely against you. Proceed accordingly.

With thirteen outs on the flop, you’ll only be a very slight underdog against even a powerful hand like pocket aces. Say you have a pair and a straight draw, holding 8d-7s with a flop of 5c-6d-7h. You’ll need to catch a 4 or a 9 to make a straight, a 7 for three of a kind, or an 8 to make two pair.

With fourteen outs on the flop, you’ll be about 50-50 to win the pot. An open-ended straight draw will give you eight outs and a flush draw will give you nine outs but you need even more. A hand with fourteen outs might look like this: You hold 4h-5h and the flop is 5d-7h-Qh. To improve your hand, you’ll need to catch a heart (nine outs), a 4 (three outs), or a 5 (two outs).

With fifteen outs on the flop, you’ll actually be a small favorite against almost any other hand. A hand with fifteen outs might look like this: You hold 6c-8c and the flop is 7d-9c-Ac. You’ll need to catch one of nine clubs to make a flush or one of six cards to make a straight. Don’t count the 5c and 10c twice!

Poker math gets much easier on the turn because only one card is left to come. Start by counting your outs and then use this next little trick.

For every three outs you have on the turn, add 7% to determine the likelihood of winning the pot. Let’s say you only have a flush draw. In that case, you’d have nine outs. Simply add seven plus seven plus seven to get to 21%. Your odds of making the flush are about 21%.

Another example: Let’s say you’re all-in with A-Q and your opponent has A-K. With only one card left to come, you’ll need to catch one of the three remaining queens to stay alive. So, with only three outs, you’ll only have about a 7% chance to win the pot.

Here’s another similar math trick. If you have an odd number of outs, just add about 2% for each out. A hand with five outs means you’ll only have about an 11% chance to hit the card you need.

It’s really that simple. No need to worry if math isn’t your best subject!

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s just-released book, Power Hold’em Strategy.

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