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What Are Your Odds in Texas Hold'em Poker?

12 June 2005

By Fred Renzey

Due to the popularity of Texas Hold'em, new poker rooms are springing up everywhere. Although various kinds of poker are played in public card rooms, the majority of games are Texas Hold'em these days. The lowest stakes tables usually begin at around $3/$6 limit. So for a $100 bill, you can get a decent taste of the game that TV coverage has made so popular.

With this many new people trying the game, it would be nice to know something about its odds. I mean, suppose you're dealt the Q/J of spades. What are your chances of making a flush? What about a straight? Might you even win the pot just by making a pair of Queens or Jacks? Let's cover that kind of thing right now.

Suited Hands: Let's say you've got the 10/8 of spades. How good is a hand like that? It'll make a flush right on the flop only 1 time in 119 -- a huge longshot. But it'll flop a 4-flush (two spades on the flop) 1 time in 9. If you then go to the river looking for your flush, you'll make it one third of those times. Not a bad gamble.

If you flopped only one spade however, you'd be a slim 23-to-1 shot to get two more spades on the last two cards. So the key with a suited hand is that you need to flop a 4-flush to have something worthwhile going.

That certainly doesn't mean you should pay to see the flop with any suited hand. Remember, the flop will miss you about 8 times out of 9. That's eight bets down the tubes when you miss and a few more bets lost when you flop your 4-flush, but never make the flush. Lots of money needs to be made up when you finally do make a flush. So the time to get in there with a suited hand is when lots of players are in, but nobody has raised. Then you'll be getting good "pot odds" on your investment.

Connectors: Now let's look at an 8/9 offsuit. Two cards in numerical succession are called "connectors" in Hold'em lingo. They'll flop a made straight 1 time in 76, another dark horse. They will, however, flop an open-end straight draw another 1 time in 10, plus a "gut-shot" (inside straight draw) 1 time in 5. The open-ender will make its straight one third of the time. But the gut-shot (an 11-to-1 underdog on the next card) needs to hit right on the "turn" (4th board card), and be thrown away if that misses. Remember, the one time you hit your hand, you'll have to make back all the money you lost the many other times you missed, or you're playing a losing brand of poker. For this reason, be very leery of playing connectors unless they're made up of two high cards, thereby also providing some high pairing opportunities.

Suited Connectors: Hands like the 6/7 of hearts may look lovely, but even they will flop either a 4-flush or an open-ender only 1 time in 6. They're better than unsuited connectors as well as suited non-connectors, but they're not as good as they look. Unless they're made up of fairly high cards, then just like all drawing hands they should only be played from a late seat when you're pretty sure it will cost just one bet to see the flop.

Pocket Pairs: If you've got a big pair like say, Queens in the hole, your hand might well be plenty strong enough to win with no improvement. But those smaller pocket pairs like 4/4 or even 7/7 almost always need to flop a "set" (make three of a kind) to have a decent chance at the pot. That'll happen for you on 1 flop out of 8. Small pocket pairs should be played sparingly, along the same guidelines as small suited hands and connectors. So if you've got pocket 5s up front with a lot of people yet to act behind you, muck'em!

High Cards: These are the primary tools of the successful Hold'em player -- and the higher, the better. "Big Slick" (an Ace/King) will make "top pair" (pair the highest card on board) right on the flop one third of the time. And more often than not, top pair will win the pot. K/Q flops top pair 1 time in 4. High cards like A/K, A/Q, A/J and K/Q are usually playable from any seat.

The following table summarizes your chances to flop certain hands with various hole cards.

Pocket Pairset (trips)7-to-1
A/Ktop pair2-to-1
K/Qtop pair3-to-1
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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