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Odds and Outs: the maths theory behind poker
Poker Maths
There are a few key things you need in poker in order to be a successful player – you need to be able to bluff, or at least hide your reactions from opponents, so they can’t tell what you’re thinking. You also need to have a certain level of experience, whether it’s just grinding hours at online poker so you get to see how different people play or endless friendlies with your mates, unless you log some games you’re not likely to ever be super successful. And, perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to work out your outs.

It’s no shocker to learn that you need a decent head for maths in order to play poker, but do you know the calculations you need off the top of your head? Elementary probabilities that you’ll need to get your head around are things like the odds of getting any given suit is about 25%, there are four suits in the deck so the odds of a card being a set suit is one in four or 25%. This same calculation applies to set ranks (the odds that you’ll get a card of a given rank, say a jack, is 7.7%) and for getting a set card from a particular suit and rank is 1/52 and the chances are 1.9%. Being aware of how many of a set card are in the deck is an important step in choosing how to play a hand and it’s imperative in calculating your outs.

So what is an out?
Basically, it’s the card you need in order to complete the strongest hand. To give an easy example, if your hand is 10 and J with the flop consisting of Q K and A, you already have an outstanding hand but, if the next card out is A, then you’ll have the strongest possible hand and getting that ace is what you want. It may be tempting to think the odds are 1.9% but they’re actually better: you know that five cards have already been dealt, none of them was the ace of spades, thus the odds aren’t 1/52 they’re 1/47 so it’s actually a 2.12% chance. Not a massive improvement but better than it had been. It’s important that when you’re calculating these odds you don’t try and guess what the opponents’ cards are – they may well have the card you need in their hand but you can’t be sure so attempting to factor it in is only going to confuse any calculations.

Of course, you still need to play well, but knowledge of your outs can help you make informed decisions. Knowing the odds of your victory can help you decide if it’s really worth raising given how likely or unlikely it is that you get the card you need. How good do you think you are at calculating outs? Let us know in the comments below!
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