## Is Poker Math Hard to Learn?

We think that a lot depends on you.  If you have a natural aptitude for simple math concepts and calculations, then poker math will come easily to you.  If you have to study to learn poker math, it will be harder to master.  Still, it is accessible to all average poker players.

One of the good aspects of using math to get better results in poker is that you can play Juicy poker without getting to the third decimal place.  That was just an LOL moment recalling grammar school arithmetic!  Just as you don’t take a pocket calculator with you to the supermarket but you know when a food item is too expensive for your budget, you can do very well by approximating the math in poker.

## Poker Math Helps us Make Good Decisions

In poker ass in blackjack, video poker, and any other game of skill, players have to focus on decisions.  Many players, especially new poker players, focus on outcomes.  This is a huge mental mistake and also often leads to the debilitating emotional state we, in the poker world, call tilt.

All we can pursue are good decisions since there is almost always an element of luck involved in the hand.  If we focus on outcomes, we lose the confidence that our analysis was correct and that our decision, even though it lost, was correct.

Even in the political arena—which we do not get involved in—there seems to be an overabundance of focus on outcomes instead of focusing on decisions which in the political arena are called policies.

We will assume that you are playing Texas Holdem.  Before the flop, you see only two cards.  Even though everyone else in the hand also has two cards, for the purpose of calculating probability, you need to assume that there are still 50 cards in the deck.

Some players have a hard time getting their head around this idea but it makes no sense either to assume that the cards dealt to your opponents wouldn’t help you or to assume that they would help you.  So, we figure the probability by assuming that the cards are still in the deck.

## What is Probability?

This is quite simply, a measurement of how likely an outcome is.  If you have a full deck of cards, the probability that the first card will be an ace, a two, a three, and so on are all the same since there are four of every card in the deck.

Now, you get your two down cards and you have to decide what to do before the flop.  If you were dealt an ace and a king, you know that the probability of a queen coming out in the flop is greater than the chance that either an ace or a king will come out.

Since we said that probability is a measurement, we can make this calculation.  The probability that a queen will come out is 4 out of 50 (the 50 cards still in the deck).  The probability that a king will come out is 3 out of 50.

## What are the Odds?

The odds are simply another way to express probability in the same way that fractions and decimals are two ways to express numbers in simple arithmetic.  So, the probability of a queen coming out in the example above is 4 out of 50 which we write as 4/50.  This can be reduced to one in 12 and a half.

We turn this around to express the odds: 12 and a half to one.

The odds that a king will come out are 3/50.  Her it helps to approximate.  3/50 is almost one in 17.  Thus the odds of a king coming out are about 17-1.

At this stage, we need to understand that the odds of getting a queen are a lot better than the odds of getting a king!

A lot of players are helped by expressing the probability as a percentage.  This is similar to the way some investors understand financial markets.  If we say that the leading stock market went up a certain number of points, it might means something to some investors.  If we convert the raw numerical rise to a percentage it usually gives better information to a larger set of investors.

Some poker players actually see themselves as ”investors” in the pot and use percentages instead of fractional probability to understand the hand as it unfolds.

The arithmetic of converting 13-1 to a percentage is hard to do in one’s head.  A lot of players who really take poker math seriously memorize common percentages.  Otherwise, it is usually best to approximate the percentage .

## Should I Call or Raise Before the Flop?

How should we use poker math to help us make a good decision before the flop?  Math is far from the only tool we have to use to arrive at the best decision but it is a very valuable tool.  We also have to think about our position in betting before the flop, what any opponent has done before it became my turn to play, how much it will cost me to stay in the hand, and what the tendencies of my opponents are.

Poker math can help us by allowing us to use established probability to help us make a decision.  For example, if you have two unpaired cards, the chances that one of them will pair on the flop are 32%.  These chances are not bad if you have high cards and could get a high pair on the flop.

This shows that it is almost always better to fold unpaired low cards since even if you do get a pair, you will have a weak hand against SOMEONE ELSE!

The probability that two suited cards will eventually become a flush is 15-1.  In poker terms, these are not very good odds.  We need to fold suited cards in early position.  We will often fold suited cards even in late position if someone raised before us.   If we are betting in late position and no one has raised the big blind behind us, two suited high cards become a stronger holding.

The probability of improving the hand is still the same but the appearance of strength is raised!

In short, just as poker math is important, there are many other factors that are also very important and as we have just seen appearance is one such factor!

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