06-12-09, Clark Jensen:

I hit sets too often!

Question: Dearest Webmaster, I LOVE poker, and I love your website. Great stuff. I am great at "playing the player" and acting like I don't own the A 7 J pot when I'm holding pocket aces. (I am a hypnotist/hypnotherapist so I am good at noticing subtle physiological nuances like that) but I just CAN'T get my head around odds.

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I am playing with a severe disadvantage and I can't seem to get odds to stick in my head, and in some cases, I don't understand them. E.G. you said that holding a pocket pair pre-flop you have odds of 8:1 hitting to make trips... Now using my judgement I would have said, you have 2 outs and 50 unseen cards, and that amounts to 48:2 or 24:1 odds... I just don't understand how you get 8:1 and this is WHY I am not a consistently winning player.

Please help me if you can!

Yours respectfully, Rory Z Fulcher


Hi Rory

As a matter of fact you don't have to know how to calculate the odds as long as you know them. The thing is that the same situations appear again and again in Hold'em. Read this article about poker probabilities and you will learn the odds for the most common drawing hands in no-time. Learn the chance of hitting a set on the flop, completing a flush on the turn and hitting your gut-shot on the river etc.

Let's take a look at your example of hitting a set on the flop.

In your example, the flop only consists of one card.  But now the flop is made up of three cards, which makes it much easier to hit that sought-after set. Actually calculating the chance of flopping a set is a bit more complicated, and to reach the correct percentage or odds, this is how you do it.

  1. On the first card of the flop: 48 cards are bad for you out of the 50 unseen cards.
  2. On the second card, 47 out of 49 cards are bad for you
  3. On the third card 46 out of 48 are bad for you.

The formula you then get is: 1 - (48/50)*(47/49)*(46/48) = 11.75 %, which translated into odds is about 7.5 to 1.

However, on the turn and the river calculating odds becomes a whole lot easier since there's only one card on each street. Post flop the calculation you presented in the question is correct.

Clark Jensen
Learn Texas Holdem

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