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Basic Odds & Outs for Hold'em

Poker odds and outs

Poker is a game that’s deeply rooted in math and percentages. Sure there are other skills like bluffing or reading people but the foundation of the game is math. Fortunately you don’t need a genius-level IQ to excel at the game because there are plenty of shortcuts you can memorize to make things easier for yourself. Here are some of the most important numbers and situations that you should know.

Common Hold'em Odds

There are a number of basic odds that you should know when you are just starting to play Hold’em.

These numbers will give you a foundation to build your poker game. There’s always going to be more advanced poker math that you can learn but this is a good way to get started.

The following odds illustrate on average how many hands it takes for something to happen. For instance poker players get pocket aces an average of once every 221 hands.

331-1Odds of getting dealt ace-king of spades (or any specific suit)
221-1Odds of getting dealt pocket aces
118-1Odds of flopping a flush with suited hole cards
81-1Odds of getting ace-king (including suited and non)
74-1Odds of flopping a straight with connected cards J-T through 5-4
54-1Odds of suited cards (jacks or better)
41-1Odds of getting one of the top five pairs (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT)
24-1Odds of getting suited connectors
16-1Odds of getting a pocket pair
8-1Odds of hitting a set on the flop with a pocket pair
5-1Odds of getting connected cards (consecutive rank like 3-2, 8-7, Q-J)
3-1Odds of making a pair on the flop with any two cards

Common Hold’em Match-Ups

When you’re playing No-Limit Hold’em you want to get your money in the middle when you have the best odds. Sometimes you will get unlucky and lose a pot where you technically had the best chance but over the long term you’ll always end up a winner if you consistently get your money in good.

Because poker players tend to play good hands like pocket pairs and ace-king suited you’ll see certain match-ups more often than others.

Here’s a look at the various match-ups that tend to happen quite frequently:

Match-upApproximate Odds (in percentage)Example
Higher pocket pair vs. lower pocket pairAt least 80% favoriteAA vs. JJ
Pocket pair vs. overcards55% favoriteJJ vs. AK
Pocket pair vs. overcard and undercard70% favoriteTT vs. Q8
Pair pair vs. overcard and one of that pair90% favoriteKK vs. AK
Two high cards vs. two lower cards65% favoriteJT vs. 87

Common Outs

In poker an out is simply any card that makes your hand. For instance if you had a straight draw with 9-8 on a 7-6-2 flop then you’d have eight outs: 5s-5h-5d-5c or 10s-10h-10d-10c.

Poker players use their outs to calculate what percentage they have to make the hand and win the pot. In the above example a player would have a 31.5% chance to make the straight by the river.

This can be used to decide when to call. For instance if your opponent makes a huge overbet than 31% doesn’t really warrant a call but if they only make a min-bet then that’s generally an easy call.

You want to have a lot of outs. Of course some of your outs won’t actually be outs. For instance if you have king-queen of diamonds vs. an opponent who has ace-ten of diamonds they you are drawing dead to the flush (because the ace-high plays).

Here’s a look at some of the various outs situations you might run into:

Calculating the Turn and the River

Once you understand the outs that are available to you with one card to go you can then start thinking about the turn and the river.

Most of the time the odds are roughly double when you have two cards to go but here’s a complete chart that displays your exact odds for every available amount of outs:

Outs Chart
Outs% 2 Cards to Come% 1 Card to Come

How to Calculate Your Own Outs

Of course you don’t need to memorize a chart if you can just calculate your own outs. Fortunately it’s not that difficult.

All you have to do is figure out just how many cards will improve your hand.

For instance if you have 5d5c and you need to improve to a set or quads, the math is quite simple:

  • Standard 52-card deck minus your two hole cards = 50 cards
  • Of those 50 cards you have two cards that can improve your hand: Either the 5s or the 5c.

That means there are 48 cards in the deck that won’t help you and two that will. Therefore you have 2 outs.

You might correctly point out that other players in the game may have folded one of the fives but that’s ignored for the purposes of calculating odds.

Here’s a slightly more advanced hand:

You have king-jack of diamonds on the turn of a Ad-5s-2d-9s board. Your opponent hit a pair of aces and you need to improve to a flush. How many outs do you have?

First of all you need to reduce the deck down to 46 cards because you have two cards and there are four cards on the board. There are 13 cards of each suit in the deck but you have two in your hand and there are two more on the board.

That means there are nine diamond cards in the deck that will make your flush and win the hand. Meanwhile there are 37 cards that, by default, will help your opponent. That means you are 37-9, or more simply, 4-1 to win. That means you’ll only pull it off 20% of the time so hopefully you don’t have to pay much to see the river.

You can always use this math to calculate your odds. Here’s an extremely simple reference guide to the make-up of the standard 52-card deck:

52Cards total
20Broadway cards (4 aces, 4 kings, 4 queens, 4 jacks, 4 tens)
13Cards of each suit (spades, diamonds, clubs, hearts)
8Cards that can complete an open-ended straight
4Cards of each rank (for example AsAhAdAc or 5s5h5d5c)

Should You Call? Basic Pot Odds

When people are just starting to play poker they often get stuck on the decision of whether to call a particular bet or not.

Most new players make this decision based entirely on what they think an opponent is holding but more experienced players will also calculate the odds. The standard formula is referred to as pot odds. It’s basically about deciding whether you are getting a good enough price to call.

For instance if you have to call $1 to potentially win a $100 pot then you are going to call every time regardless of your hand because it’s simply too cheap to fold (and your opponent might be bluffing once in every 100 hands).

On the other hand if you have to pay $75 to win a $175 pot then it’s not a good proposition to call with a weak hand.

This is particularly helpful when you are on draws.

For instance if you are on a straight draw where you have eight outs to hit on the river than your odds are 38-8, or simplified, 6-1. That means you’ll get there just under 20% of the time.

Let’s say the pot has $90 in it and your opponent just made a bet of $10.

That’s generally an easy call because your odds of hitting are 6-1 and your opponent just gave you odds of 10-1 on a call (if you call the pot is $100). That means you only need to be successful once every 10 times and with your hand you should be successful once every six times. The odds are in your favor.

Now if your opponent bet $100 that would be a much dicier proposition. Suddenly you are risking $100 to win $200 and the odds are 200-100, or simplified, 2-1. Since you’re only 6-1 to make your hand you should probably fold.

Of course pot odds are just a guideline and you’re totally in your right to make a crazy call because you are a 100% certain your opponent has specific hand. It’s usually not correct to play this way but it can work out for some people.

What Are the Odds Behind the Best Hold’em Hands?

There are five hands that are widely considered to the best in Hold’em. Those hands are AA, KK, QQ, JJ and AK usually in that order. They are widely considered the power five in Hold’em and most of the time you’ll be playing them every time they’re dealt to you.

There are a large number of odds and tips for playing the best hands in Hold’em and we’ve actually broken in down in the following standalone articles about each hand:

Common Questions About Poker Odds

Are Straight Draws or Flush Draws Better?

This is a weird one but you actually have slightly more outs with a flush draw once you’re one card from completing:

  • Flush draw: 9 outs
  • Straight draw: 8 outs

It makes sense when you think about it. An open-ended straight draw has a total of 8 cards that complete it (ranked cards on both the high and low) while a flush draw is any one of the nine remaining cards of your suit.

This is only odd because flushes are ranked higher than straights in the official Hold’em hand rankings.

The reason is that straights are actually easier to start (it’s more common to be dealt connectors than suited cards) but flushes are easier to finish once you’ve gotten four of them lined up.

Don’t sleep on straights, however. They are significantly easier to disguise and rivering a deceptive straight can be a grade-A way to win huge pots.

Do I Have to Be a Math Genius to Play Hold’em?

No. Math is certainly a fundamental part of Hold’em and poker in general but there are plenty of successful players that excel in reading people and making well-timed bluffs over calculating their equity in marginal situations.

Interestingly there are other players who incorporate the math aspects of the game without even thinking about it. They might say they go by "feel" when considering a call but there's a good chance they will take into account the fact they are calling a small bet or a big one.

In general you just want to minimize your risks and maximize your profits. That’s not exceptionally hard to understand.

Should I Only Play Aces?

No. As you can see above you’ll only get aces on average once in every 221 hands that you play. That’s simply not frequent enough to be profitable.

In addition opponents would be able to easily categorize you as an extremely conservative player and would either fold immediately or attempt to suck out on you with a smaller hand and win a huge pot.

Poker is a situational game and it’s all about reading your opponent and adapting as you go.

What’s the Best Draw in Poker?

That would be an open-ended straight-flush draw with over cards. It’s one of the only draws where you’re actually a favorite to win by the river.

Straight flush draws are usually played extremely aggressively by experienced players because there’s a chance your opponent might be on a smaller draw and you would have them dominated.

In general straight flush draws are monsters and should be played accordingly.

What are Outs in Poker?

Outs are simply the cards that will complete your hand and (hopefully win you the pot).

Sometimes you’ll know for sure that your outs will win you the pot while other times it won’t be as clear.

For instance if you’ve got ace-king suited and are one card from completing the nut-flush (with no pairs on the board) then you can rest assured that if you hit your card then you will win.

What Are Drawing Hands vs. Made Hands in Poker?

Made hands are hands that stand a good chance at holding up without any help from the board. A good example would be pocket aces. It can improve but there’s also a good chance it will be just fine with out any help from the board.

A drawing hand is something like 8-7 suited because it gives you the chance to hit both straights and flushes.

Generally you want to be seeing cheap flops with your drawing hands and hopefully hit something good so that you can stack your opponent.

What are the Best Odds in Poker?

If you can somehow get your opponent drawing to one out you’re doing pretty good.

In most situations where you opponent is dead to one out you’ll be pretty close to a 98% favorite. There’s not a poker player on earth that wouldn’t take those odds on a regular basis.

Generally that’s rare, however, and your opponent will usually have at least a few outs.