Poker Odds Tips: 11 poker odds you really must know – and how to use them

The Paul Phua Poker School chart of common poker odds will dramatically improve your game. Paul Phua gives tips on how they should affect your strategy

In my last three articles in this mini-series on poker odds, I explained why they matter; how you can calculate them with a simple magic formula; and how to apply the odds in your play using a nut flush draw as an example.
But in the heat of the moment, you may not have time to calculate the odds, even using the magic formula. So be sure to learn this list of the most useful poker odds. I promise it will revolutionise your game.
I have added playing tips to each one, to show how knowing the odds can improve your strategy.

Odds of getting these cards dealt pre-flop

Pocket Aces: 1 in 220

If you are so tight that you will only play with Aces, you will have a long wait! You’ll be dealt pocket Aces – or Kings, or Queens, or any specific pair – just 1 in 220 hands. That’s no more than once a day in live play. You’ll get AK, however, once in every 82 hands.

Pocket pair: 1 in 17

It’s rare to be dealt a pocket pair, so don’t waste them. A large pocket pair (QQ, KK, AA, plus JJ or 10-10 depending on previous bets and your position) should raise or re-raise pre-flop, then bet the flop unless an overcard hits. A smaller pocket pair should usually “set mine”, ie call if it’s cheap, and hope for a set on the flop.

Two suited cards: 1 in 4

Suited cards look pretty, but can quickly drain your chips. It’s best to play them only when they are high cards in their own right, or when they are connected to give you an additional chance of a straight draw. Relax: now you know you are dealt them every four hands, you can afford to wait for better ones.

Odds of hitting the flop

A pair: 1 in 3

If you hold unpaired cards pre-flop, your chance of making a pair on the flop is just 1 in 3. The good news is that any single opponent is also unlikely to have hit.

A set from a pocket pair: 1 in 8

If you are dealt a pocket pair, your chance of hitting a set on the flop is about 1 in 8. Even so, it’s often worth “set mining” even with a low pair, as you can often win much more than 8x your investment if you do hit a set.

Odds from flop to river

Flush draw: 1 in 3

If you have a flush draw on the flop, your chance of completing it by the river is slightly higher than 1 in 3. If you can only double your money, eg you’re against just one other player, it usually doesn’t make sense to keep calling and chasing the draw.

Flush draw plus another draw: 1 in 2

As explained here, a flush draw with an overcard such as an Ace, or an inside straight draw, is a much stronger hand. Be alert to the extra outs that make flush draws much more profitable.

“Open-ended” straight draw: 1 in 3

An “open-ended” straight draw is where you hold four consecutive cards, so a card at either end would complete the straight. This gives you 8 outs: slightly worse odds than a flush draw. Beware too of someone else drawing to a flush. You then have only 6 outs, as two of your cards would also complete their flush.
“Gutshot” straight draw: 1 in 6
An inside straight draw, nicknamed a “gutshot” or “belly buster”, is where only one middle card will complete your straight – eg you have 5689 and need the 7. This is a huge leak for inexperienced players: you almost never have the correct pot odds to call with this hand. Look out for the “double belly buster”, where two middle cards could make you a straight, eg you have 467810 and need the 5 or the 9. This is nearly 1 in 3.

A full house from a set: 1 in 3

If you’re unlucky enough to flop a set against a straight or flush, you’re still in better shape than you might think. Your chance of getting a full house with the final two cards is 1 in 3. Your chance of two pairs becoming a house are, however, just 1 in 6.

All-in pre-flop: who wins by the river?

In the late stages of a tournament, short stacks are often forced to shove all-in with less than premium hands, and are then called by a player with high cards. As the following set of odds shows, there is always hope for the underdog (these odds will change slightly in different circumstances, eg if cards are suited or have straight draw potential):
Pocket pair v overcards, eg 55 v AK: 54%
Highest card v next two best, eg A6 v K7: 60%
Highest card v second highest, eg A9 v K8: 65%
Both cards higher, eg A9 v 72: 68%
“Dominating” your opponent by duplicating their kicker, eg A7 v K7: 74%
Higher pair against lower pair, eg KK v 88: 81%