playing poker

Tip 3 Be aware

Pot odds is another important poker concept. With applications throughout the play of a hand.  Essentially, pot odds refers to how the amount of money in the pot influences your decision to play or pass.  For those of you new to this concept, here is an example to help clarify.  Suppose you are holding K-Q, and see a flop of 3-T-J.  As you can see, any ace or 9 will make you the nut straight.  Also, a king or queen pairs you, which may or may not produce a winning hand. You can determine your pot odds if you know the following:

  • How much money is in the pot
  • How much it will cost you to stay in the hand
  • What your chances are of making the best hand

For this example, let’s say that there is $ 100 in the pot, and it costs you $ 10 to call a bet.  Also, for simplicity’s sake, assume that we are talking only about making your hand on the next card, and that you will win only if you make a straight.

  You can express your likelihood of making the best hand by forming a ratio of the cards that miss you to the cards that make your hand.  In this case, that would be 39-to-8.  (This representation is called odds.)  Of the 47 unseen cards, 30 are blanks (cards that do not make you hand), which eight (the four nines and four aces) make you a straight.  You can also express this same relationship as a fraction, 8/47, or a shade better than 1 in 6.  (This representation is called chances.)
  Here, the difference between odds and chances is that odds usually refer to the unlikelihood of an event.  Odds are expressed as a ratio, with the larger number being the ways of missing and the smaller number the ways of hitting.  In our example, there are 39 ways of missing the straight and eight of making it.  Thus, the odds against making  the straight are 39-to-8.  Chances are expressed as a fraction , with the denominator being the total number of possibilities and the numerator the ways of hitting.  In our example, there are 47 possible outcomes, of which eight make the hand.  Thus, the chances of making the straight are 8/47.
  Now, it is time to combine those three points above to determine the correct course of action.  It is wrong to automatically call with your hand simply because you have a straight draw.  You must make sure that the pot is offering you the proper odds (the right price) to call.
  You can express the price the pot is offering you as both a ratio (in this case, it is 100-to-10); and as a fraction (10/10).  Reduced, you are getting pot odds of 10-to-1 on your call.  What this means is that  as long as you will make your hand more than one time in 11, it is profitable for you to draw.  Since your chances of improving your K-Q to a straight are about 1 in 6, calling is clearly the right play poker .

  What about an inside straight draw?  With this holding, you have only four ways to make a straight.  This makes your chances 4/47, or just slightly better than 1 in 12.  With the same size pot and cost to call, a fold is now in order, since you will not make your hand often enough for drawing at it to be profitable.  Had either the pot been larger or the amount of the bet smaller, however, calling often would be correct.

How Much Math Do You Need?

So, do you have to be a math wiz to play hold’em?  Absolutely not! Poker at its essence is a game of people and logical thought.  The ability to do complex mathematical equations in your head, while impressive, will probably not be of much benefit to you here.

  You should, however, have a good working knowledge of odds and probability.  Whether you do this in your head on the spot, or take some time to learn by rote the odds of making certain draws, you should not neglect this aspect of the game.  Failure to learn the odds may cause you not only to call when you should fold, but also to fold when you should be calling.  It is perfectly acceptable to memorize a chart showing the odds of completing the various draws.  Doing so will save you from having to make on-the – spot calculations.  (You can find an odds chart for various poker draws in the Appendix.)
  In many cases, your decision whether to pursue a draw is quite obvious.  For example, suppose you must pay $ 10 to draw to a flush (nine cards make the hand) when there is $ 300 in the pot.  The pot offers 30-to-1 and the odds against making your hand are only 38-to-9 (a little worse than 4-to-1).  In a situation like this, your hand plays fairly automatically.  However, situation like this, your hand plays fairly automatically.  However, situations frequently arise in which your continued involvement in the pot is questionable, due to the close alignment between the cost of remaining in the hand, the size of the pot, and the odds against making your draw.  For example, if you must call $20 to win $60, and the odds against making your hand are 3-to-1, it is a virtual dead heat.  Mathematically, it doesn’t matter whether you call or fold.  It’s a break-even proposition either way.

  There are many close, “coin flip” type decisions in poker, in which it doesn’t appear to matter which decision you make.  However, good poker players learn to include additional factors in their analysis of a hand.  Decisions that at first appear to be cases of “six of one, half a dozen of the other” become clear-cut after further study.  But, that is what the rest of this book is about. 

Playing Before the Flop

The most important decision you make during a hand of hold’em is whether to enter the pot in the first place.  As a winning player, your greatest single source of profit comes from those who play hands they should be folding.  The mistake the entering a pot with a marginal or interior hand can easily be compounded by improving the hand just enough on the flop to continue with it until the end.  For example, hands such as 8-6 offsuit (not suited, that is, of different suits) should rarely, if ever, be played, for the reason that even when they improve (by flopping a pair or a straight draw), they often don’t win the pot.  In this manner, an initial mistake of playing a bad hand has paved the way for the rest of the hand, which could turn out to be quite expensive.
  The tips in this section help you avoid this trap, by showing a tight-aggressive approach to hand selection.  We can’t possibly cover every possibly situation, but we hope that the use of numerous examples is effective in forming general guidelines in your mind as to how to play hold’em before the flop.
  Note:- This section contains statements like “raise with a pair of jacks.” Interpret that to mean that raising in the situation under discussion is correct when you are holding any hand equal to or better than a pair of jacks.  Similar statements appear regarding the play of unpaired cards and cards that are suited (of the same suit).  For example, if you see “raise with A-J,” of course that means that if you have A-Q you also raise