Q: How Do Poker Pros Calculate The Odds Of Winning So Quickly?

Is there some sort of shortcut or is it memory? I can’t tell when I’m a huge favorite or a slight underdog, but not with the degree of certainty they seem to know. (i.e. I called an all in bet when I had top two pair against a guy i put on a draw with one card to come. I suffered what I suspected was a really bad beat and I checked a poker odds calculator which said I was an 80% favorite, but I don’t know how to tell this while I’m at the table. Is there an easy way? I had the other guy covered and I was getting about 3 to one on my call) and by the way this was no limit hold ’em.

A: Professional poker players are generally all good at math. Some are what you might call exceptional, but lacking quick math skills doesn’t preclude anybody from being a good poker player. Not only are there easy ways to understand the mathematical concepts of poker, but there are also intuitive factors that can be even more valuable to your game skill set. 

Notwithstanding that, you should know that before the flop, there really aren’t that many combinations:

A pair vs. two over-cards (ex. 9-9 vs. A-J) = coin flip (the 9-9 is between 50-55%)
A pair vs. one over-card (ex. 9-9 vs. A-8) = pair is 2-1 favorite
A pair vs. two under-cards (ex: 9-9 vs. 6-7) = pair is 3-1 favorite
A pair vs. lower pair (ex: 9-9 vs. 8-8) = high pair is 4-1 favorite

With no pairs:

Two high vs. two low (ex. 9-8 vs. 5-4) = high cards are 75-80%
One high vs. two middle (ex: J-5 vs. 6-7) = high card is 60%
Interleaved (J-8 vs. 9-7) = high card is 55%

The odds are about the same whether the high card is a 9 or an A.


After the flop: Odds of hitting are about 4% times the number of outs.
After the turn: Odds of hitting are about 2% times the number of outs.


How to handle bad beats:
This is more psychology, but since you brought it up…

If you play often enough, the bad beats will even out (When the board makes a bad beat, half the time you get burnt, half the time you luck out.)

Well, this is the trick I use:

After the flop, look at your hold cards and calculate how many “outs” you have. 
Then take that number and multiply by 4.5 (or just 4 to save time) and those are your odds for the turn card. For the river card multiply your “outs” by 2.5

After the flop its your number of outs times 4 +2 approximately. After turn it is your number of outs times 2 +2. so if you have 4 outs after flop u have approximately 18% chance of winning. The plus 2 makes it a little more accurate in my opinion. It also depends on your pot odds. IF There is 100 dollars in the pot and the person bets 25. it might be worth calling because u are getting 4-1 pot odds.

The best pros are very good at math. They also probably use some shortcuts.

Rough estimates – multiply the number of outs times 2% with one card to come

Then multiply the number of outs by 3.5% with two cards to come, and that will give you some good estimates on your chances of winning when behind.

Poker Calculator Types and the Security of Your Poker Bankroll

If you play online poker, then I am sure you are familiar with at least one of the online poker calculators. If you don’t already own one, then you probably are thinking of owning one. But if a poker calculator investment is in your near future you should know the basic types and how they relate to the security of your poker account and bankroll.

Using Your Poker Calculator to Spot a Pro at the Table

You don’t necessarily need a poker calculator to do this but at the least, it sure can help you confirm or deny your suspicions about the quality of your opponent. You may have been attracted to your favorite poker website with the lure of numerous fish, but wherever they are, there too, are sharks. So it only follows that you need to know who they are. Your poker calculator will virtually tell you who they are by indicating how many hands they play, how many pre-flop raises they make, and how many hands they win at showdown – all this without ever having to know what they were holding.

Poker Calculators and The Sklansky Group Hand Rankings

You may have noticed that while using your poker calculator it displays your hand odds while also using terminology like “hand rank”, “group”, or “group rank” all of which in some way or another refer to author David Sklansky’s Group Hand ranking for hold’em poker. Originally described in the classic book, “Hold’em Poker for Advanced Players”, Sklansky rated all the starting hands and put them in groups according to their similar win rate.

By clustering hands based on win rate and strength, it’s easier to keep track of basic betting strategies associated with each individual hand. For example, in Sklansky Group 3 hands you will find 99, AQ, ATs, and JTs among others. The best cluster though is Sklansky’s Group One which includes AA, AKs, KK, QQ, and JJ. They are going to show very high percentage win rates on your poker calculator as well as “raise, and re-raise” recommendations.

In adopting the Sklansky Group of Hands your poker calculator could in effect make you a “book player”, because many, especially the mathematical poker calculators don’t take other factors into account at the poker table. However, as a guideline, your poker calculator is going to have the exact odds, and correct mathematical indication served up for you, David Sklansky style.

Poker calculators have adopted this because, well they are just software designed by programmers, and not necessarily poker enthusiasts, but Sklansky is a Poker icon, educator, and author. I have had several poker calculators running at the same time for testing, and have found very similar results and percentage recommendations, because they generally use the same statistical backbone as Sklansky Group of Hands.

The difference between them lie in how their other features are factored in, such as how it monitors your position, how many players in the pot, how many tight or aggressive players, stage of a tournament, and if a player’s stake is up or down significantly.

Although published years ago, by using The Sklansky Group of Hands, poker software offers credibility to the ranking system, although it sure didn’t need it. Professional players have known these rankings and what to do with them for years. Seasoned opponents will also know how to use them against you, if you are an obvious book player, so mixing it up is always a good idea.

Some other books published by David Sklansky include The Theory of Poker, Tournament Poker for Advanced Players, and Hold’em Poker