Learn Basic Poker Math
It’s time for Juicy Stakes to delve into the world of poker math. This is a lot more important than the rake schedule. We know that you would like us to simplify poker math. We expect this course of study to take a few articles to cover. So, buckle up for the ride!
Why Do We Need Poker Math?
The main reason is that everyone else is using it to their advantage! Poker math, at its most basic elements, simply tells you what your chances are of winning the pot, whether it is worth calling or raising with the bet and pot at hand, and whether your potential or actual hand matches up mathematically with your opponent’s hand.
Poker math cannot tell you how to proceed against this particular opponent in any area that is outside the purview of math! This might be obvious but we need to state it. Poker math will not show you an opponent’s tells; it won’t tell you what your opponent’s tendencies are; it will not tell you what he or she has in the hole.
Poker math gives you a lot of information that you can use to your advantage specifically about your hand and its relationship to the pot.
Poker Math is Math!
You will have to go back in your mind to the basic math—which we all called arithmetic—that we learned in grammar school and high school. We will not be getting into algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or (heaven forbid) calculus!
So, we have to tell you to get ready to go back to fractions, percentages, ratios, and similar concepts!
After we do the math for a hand, we will be able to convert the math into odds. Odds are a different way of stating the percentage of hands that look like the one we are playing that we win and how many we lose.
Let’s Take an Example
There are four cards of each value in a deck. So, there are four aces. Let’s say that you have one ace in the hole. Since there are four aces in the deck, you have one out of four aces which we write as 1:3. We usually refer to this ratio as “one to three”.
This is very important: the ratio 1:3 tells us that we have one out of four similar cards and therefore there are three of these cards still in the deck. The reason it is so important to understand what the ratio means is because as a fraction, we say that we have ¼ of the aces!
The fraction ¼ can also be expressed as the decimal fraction .25. In poker math we would see .25 as 25% which means that if we have one ace out og four we have 25 percent of the aces.
How Can I Learn These Concepts Easily?
As we see it, the biggest problem is to understand that even though we might write the various math concepts differently, they all tell us basically the same information about one specific matter. In our case, the specific matter is poker and you can practice poker math on your own with a deck of cards.
However, we feel that it is better to take the mathematical concepts to someplace where you might already know the answers to the questions. We have found that a supermarket is great place to practice basic math!
The Basic Math of Breakfast Cereal
Let’s take an example. You want to buy breakfast cereal and you want to buy one with little sugar. You look at the nutritional information on the box. The number of grams of sugar in the chart is not enough information so we also look at how big the “sample size” is.
Now, we see that the sample size is 100 grams and the amount of sugar is 7 grams. Food manufacturers use 100 grams a sample size since it is so easy to turn the data into fractions and ratios that consumers can understand.
Here is the basic math of this particular breakfast cereal:
- The ratio of sugar to not sugar is 7:93. The non-sugar ingredients might be water, wheat, corn, oats, chemicals, or vitamins and minerals.
- The fraction of sugar to the whole is 7/100 which we can also write as .07. both of these are pronounced as “seven one-hundredths”.
- The same fraction as above can also be expressed as 7% which tells us that 7 out 0f 100 ingredients are sugar. This fraction of sugar might be too high for some parents and it might also be so poor in poker that the player should fold this kind of hand!
This seems to be the concept that most new poker players find the easiest to wrap their heads around. We need to calculate pot odds when we are facing a bet that we have to either call (or raise) or fold the hand. If you have tried to study pot odds in the past, you surely came across the notion that pot odds are a measure of risk to reward.
Let’s backtrack a bit to see what a pot really is.
What is a Pot?
The pot is all of the money that all players have bet. All of this money is “in the pot” and only one player will have access to the money. The only player who can take this money (minus the rake, of course) is the winner of the pot. It is true that some pots split but we will ignore that for now.
This means that the money you have already bet is NO LONGER YOUR MONEY!
Let’s look at a few sample pot odds. We will start with a pot that has $5 in it.
- If the bet to you is $1, you can win $6 which is the pot plus the bet. You can lose, at this point, $1 which is how much you need to bet to stay in the hand. We figure pot odds with the reward first but that is just a convention. So the pot odds in this case are 6-1.
- If the bet were $2, the pot odds would be 7-1.
- If the bet were $3, the pot odds would grow to 8-1.
Now, we hope that it is obvious to you that as the pot odds go up, the likelihood that your opponent has a strong hand might also go up! So pot odds of 5-1 might actually be better in this case than pot odds of 8-1. That’s because based on other factors, you feel that the 5-1 pot is more winnable than the pot with 8-1 pot odds.
We also hope that you understand that pot odds are insufficient in themselves to tell you how to proceed in a hand. We will start part 2 with a continuation of pots odds.
In the meantime, we urge you to make Juicy Stakes Poker your go to place for great online poker!