Improve your poker skills with Pokertrainer’s interactive exercises, practices and tutorials and have fun and compete for the monthly hi-score!
There are poker trainer exercises for both beginners and very advanced players in the full poker trainer package.
Poker is hard to learn because it takes a long time for mistakes to become obvious through the results.
With Pokertrainer the game is broken down into individual parts that you can practice and make sure you master one at a time.
Pokertrainer consist of tutorials and practical exercises to help you:
– Improve your Hand Reading skills
– Practice Preflop skills
– Learn Poker Hand Ranking
– Quickly recognize the Best Hand
– Understand and calculate Pot Odds
You can compete for the monthly hi-score and or you can practice which will let you see the correct answer after each question.
When you are competing the exercise is on time (which will help improve your speed).
Wrong answer costs 10 seconds, except in Hand Reading where the number of seconds are the size of your error.
Are you Noob or Legend?
Find out now!
– Introduction to exercise
– Practice with your own ranges
– Introduction to preflop play
– Opening ranges
– Calling ranges
– 3-betting ranges
– 4-betting ranges
– Call 3-betting ranges
– Adjusting your preflop play
Introduction to exercise
This exercise is based on 6-max No-limit Hold’em with normal stack size (about 100 Big Blinds) and normal raise sizes.
This means raising to around 2.25 to 3 Big Blinds when opening the pot, to around 9 Big Blinds when 3-betting and to around 23 Big Blinds when 4-betting.
The strategy will work well in most situations, including early stage tournaments, cash games and Zoom.
The preflop ranges have been updated to be state-of-the-art 2021 and are in line with recommendations from the most reputable poker training sites (for example Upswing and Poker Coaching).
They are created by a high stakes pro using MonkerSolver and are intended to be close to GTO (Game Theory Optimal).
These ranges are a somewhat simplified version of the GTO ranges.
When playing GTO you are using mixed strategies, which means you will not always do the same thing in the same situation.
For example, you will sometimes be calling with TT in the BTN vs a CO open and sometimes you will raise.
At high stakes poker this will become significant, but at smaller stakes the significantly increased complexity does not make it worth it.
Lower stakes opponents will definitely not be able to take advantage of your simplified strategy. Read more about this in Adjusting your preflop play
If you prefer using your own ranges you can do that by adding them in the Range Editor in Preflop.
To make it easier to manage a lot of memorisation you can choose to practice specific position or action. You can choose position or action – not both at the same time.
For example, you can practice playing from the Big Blind or scenarios where your opponent has raised your raise (3-bet).
When an animation is running the buttons are disabled to prevent you from accidentally clicking the answer before you have all information about the hand.
The timer is stopped during the animation.
Wrong answer costs 10 seconds.
Practice with your own ranges
If you for some reason prefer using your own ranges, you can save them and do all the preflop exercises. Your ranges are saved to the cloud and accessible from all your devices.
Reasons for wanting your own ranges might be that you are using wider ranges than the included GTO ranges to exploit weaker players.
Or maybe you are a beginner and want to start with tighter ranges that are easier in the beginning.
Or you have another set of recommended ranges from somewhere (preflop poker is far from solved so no-one knows for sure exactly how the optimal ranges look).
Select Edit Ranges on the intro page to preflop play to access the Range Editor. Here you will see the following:
– Hero: This is you.
– Hero action: For example you open the pot or call a 3-bet.
– Hero position: For example BTN (as in Button).
– Villain: This is your opponent.
– Villains position: For example BB (as in Big Blind).
Introduction to preflop play
Preflop play is laying the foundation for everything else in Texas Hold’em.
If you don’t play well preflop it is very hard – or even impossible to make up for that at later streets.
The fact that we are making preflop decisions every single hand makes it even more important to get it right.
The good news is that how to play well preflop is well researched and understood. You don’t have to come up with a strategy yourself.
The less good news is that there is a lot to memorise to learn it well and it is boring. But that’s were this exercise comes into play.
You practice and get immediate feedback telling you when you get it right and when you don’t.
Before we get into the details, please note that this strategy is meant to be the starting point, you should adjust your play depending on the circumstances (at least when you are an advanced player).
For example, raise more hands on the button if the blinds fold too often to a steal. More on this in Adjusting your preflop play.
Also note that there are other ways to play preflop that can be succesful, you can play profitably both with a tighter style and with a loser.
Some of the most successful players are looser and more aggressive than the strategy described here.
But that style of playing is significantly more difficult and only recommended for the strongest players who has a significant skill advantage over their opponents.
– UTG is Under The Gun – first to act
– MP is Middle position, the position after UTG
– CO is Cutoff and is the position before the button
– BTN – The button is the dealer
– SB – The Small Blind
– BB – The Big Blind
A range refers to all the hands that a player is playing, for example pocket pairs Queens to Aces and Aces and Kings.
Normally we don’t know what range a player is having, but a very important part of poker is assigning (by observation, knowledge and analytical assessment) a likely range to an opponent.
This part is covered in the Hand Reading exercise.
There is a shorthand notation to make it easier to describe ranges:
– AJs+ means suited aces AJs or better, that is; AJs, AQs, AKs
– AQo+ means off-suit AQ and AK
– 55-AA means pocket pairs from 55 to aces
In these scenarios no one has raised yet, that is why the are called opening ranges. You open the pot by raising the Big Blind. If you open the pot by calling the Big Blind, it is called limping.
We never limp ourselves when no one has entered the pot (this is considered an amateur move by almost all serious players). We either raise or fold.
Exceptions can be made if other players have limped before you. Then you might want to limp behind with speculative hands (hands that are not good, but can hit a flop well) like for example lower pocket pairs or lower suited connectors.
You might want to do this when the circumstances are right, for example several have limped before you and it is unlikely that anyone after you will make a big raise.
Betting when no one has yet attacked the blinds is called opening raising or RFI (Raising First In).
When someone has entered the pot by limping they are usually a very weak player that we like to play against.
At the same time they are also likely to be a calling station (calling too much) so it can be tough to bluff against them. As a starting point you raise to 3 Big Blinds + 1 Big Blind per limper.
So if two players have limped you raise to 5 Big Blinds.
As a starting point when you are in position you can raise with the range from the position before. So when you are in the BTN you raise with the CO range.
When you are in the blinds (out of position) you can raise with the UTG range.
This is a conservative approach and when you are comfortable with attacking limpers you can profitably add more hands to your ranges.
Especially when you have information about their tendencies and weaknesses they can be very profitable to play against.
For example some limpers will almost always fold to a continuation bet (a follow-up bet from player who raised preflop) on the flop when they miss (fit or fold players).
Some limpers will rarely fold when they have some kind of hand (calling stations).
Back to the opening (RFI) ranges, here are the default recommendations for each position:
Under The Gun
We recommend a fairly tight opening range from Button as the default. But this assumes reasonably competent players in the blinds who will fight back a lot.
If the blinds are folding too much you can expand your range quite a bit.
In this case you will often get the blinds without fight and when they do fight back you will always be in position.
We recommend using the same opening range in Small Blind as on the Button as default. The reason for this is that we will always be out of position.
However, if the Big Blind is a weak player with a tendency to fold too much we can open with a much wider range.
These ranges are intended for situtations when one player has made a raise before you.
Before we go into these ranges, let’s consider the scenario where another player has called the raise in front of you. This gives you the possibility to call with a wider range.
Especially hands that are speculative can be added (lower pairs and lower suited connectors primarily).
To assess if this is a good idea you need to take into account the risk that someone after you will make a significant raise, which might force you to fold.
Another player calling before you also gives you the option to squeeze. This means putting in a significant raise (usually around 4 times the size of the original raise) against an original raiser and one or more callers.
The squeeze make it difficult for the original raiser to continue without a strong hand since he is facing two opponents.
And since the second player only called the original raise, there is a decent chance he will fold directly.
The squeeze play is especially attractive in the Big Blind if the button or CO has raised and the Small Blind has called (not recommended).
Then you are likely facing wide ranges and you are in position versus the Small Blind.
Call MP vs UTG
We don’t have a default calling range in MP vs the UTG raiser. There are several players left to act after us and we might become out of position versus a raiser.
Call CO vs UTG
We don’t have a default calling range in MP vs the UTG raiser. There are several players left to act after us and we might become out of position versus a raiser.
Call BTN vs UTG
Call SB vs UTG
We don’t have a default calling range in SB vs the UTG raiser. If the Big Blind raises we will be out of position and our range will be seen as relatively weak.
As you will see when we go through the rest of the positions, we don’t have a default calling range in SB in any scenario.
Call BB vs UTG
Call CO vs MP
We don’t have a default calling range in MP vs the UTG raiser. There are several players left to act after us and we might become out of position versus a raiser.
Call BTN vs MP
Call SB vs MP
Call BB vs MP
This is intentionally the same range as BB vs UTG.
Call BTN vs CO
Call SB vs CO
Call BB vs CO
Call SB vs BTN
Call BB vs BTN
Call BB vs SB
As you can see, we are defending with a very wide range in the Big Blind versus the Small Blind. We call with 44 % of all hands and we 3-bet with 5 % (as you will see later).
This means we are fighting back the Small Blind with half of our hands (which is a lot more than what many players are doing).
We know the Small Blind is on fairly wide range and we will be in position, which makes it profitable for us to fight back with many hands.
In general, it is very important to actively defend the Big Blind, if we just fold and give up all the time, the blinds will become very expensive.
For some players the loss rate in the blinds are what is holding them back from becoming really strong winners.
You will however always be losing in the blinds over a large sample, so that in itself is normal. But you need to be very active in minimizing your losses.
A reason you can call quite a lot in the Big Blind even when you are out of position is that you usually get good pot odds.
For example, if you are facing one opponent in MP who has raised to 2.5 Big Blinds there will be 4 Big Blinds in the pot and you only need to pay 1.5 Big Blinds to see the flop.
That’s better than 2.5 to 1 in odds (see odds exercise for more information and exercises with odds), which means you only have to win 29 % of the hands to break-even (assuming wins and losses are of the same size).
These ranges are intended for situtations when one player has made a raise before you and you raise them.
For most part our 3-betting (and 4-betting) ranges are relatively strong. You will see some hands like A5s or QTs here and there.
These are not the strongest hands, they are added as 3-betting light hands.
A reason why lower suited aces are used is that they both can make straights and flushes, but they are also what is called blockers.
When you have an ace it reduces the possibility that your opponent has one somewhat.
This is a way of semi-bluffing, with a decent hand that can become strong if called (normally you will fold these against a raise).
When you are a strong winning player you will be able to convert some of the calling hands into 3-betting hands.
You should also mix it up so you sometimes call with some of those hands and sometimes 3-bet.
That will mostly be done by stepping away from the default ranges when suitable (or by building your own default ranges).
We keep the default ranges reasonably easy to learn and play to have a very solid starting point.
3Bet MP vs UTG
3Bet CO vs UTG
3Bet BTN vs UTG
3Bet SB vs UTG
3Bet BB vs UTG
3Bet CO vs MP
3Bet BTN vs MP
3Bet SB vs MP
3Bet BB vs MP
3Bet BTN vs CO
3Bet SB vs CO
3Bet BB vs CO
3Bet SB vs BTN
3Bet BB vs BTN
3Bet BB vs SB
These ranges are intended for situtations when you have opened the pot, a player has raised and you raise him.
For most part our 4-betting ranges are strong. You will see some hands like A5s or similar, but they are few.
These are not the strongest hands, they are added as 4-betting light hands.
The reason there are very few 4-betting light hands is that at lower levels (below $25) 3-bets are usually fairly strong and it is risky to add too many 4-bet bluffs.
At higher levels you might want to add a little bit more 4-bet bluffs.
4Bet UTG vs MP
4Bet UTG vs CO
4Bet UTG vs BTN
4Bet UTG vs SB
4Bet UTG vs BB
4Bet MP vs CO
4Bet MP vs BTN
4Bet MP vs SB
4Bet MP vs BB
4Bet CO vs BTN
4Bet CO vs SB
4Bet CO vs BB
4Bet BTN vs SB
4Bet BTN vs BB
4Bet SB vs BB
Call 3-betting ranges
These ranges are intended for situations when you have opened the pot, a player has raised and you call him.
Call 3Bet UTG vs MP
Call 3Bet UTG vs CO
Call 3Bet UTG vs BTN
Call 3Bet UTG vs SB
Call 3Bet UTG vs BB
Call 3Bet MP vs CO
Call 3Bet MP vs BTN
Call 3Bet MP vs SB
Call 3Bet MP vs BB
Call 3Bet CO vs BTN
Call 3Bet CO vs SB
Call 3Bet CO vs BB
Call 3Bet BTN vs SB
Call 3Bet BTN vs BB
Call 3Bet SB vs BB
Adjusting your preflop play
The ranges used in this exercise are meant to be a default starting point. They will work fine as they are without adaptations up to a certain point.
After a certain point you should consider:
– Playing a mixed strategy
– Adjust to opponents by exploiting their mistakes
It is hard to say exactly when this certain point is. In general you want to be easily beating the stake your playing at
and you are facing opponents that are advanced enough to profit from your simplified (pure) strategy.
This is not relevant on micro or small stakes. It might be relevant on mid-stakes and it definitely is important at high stakes.
So in general you can start considering adaptations at $200 NL online cash games or $5 / $10 live cash games.
If you are playing tournaments you will be fine with these ranges (with pure strategy) at early stage tournaments with buy-in up to a few hundred dollars.
In tournaments it is however important to adapt to the stack sizes and the stage of the tournaments, which has a noticable impact even at small buy-in tournaments.
Learning adaptation for mid- and late stage tournaments is beyond the scope of this exercise.
Here are a few things you will do when you get more advanced:
– Become less predictable by not always doing the same thing – for example sometimes you will call with AJs in the BTN vs a CO open and sometimes you will raise
– Move some of the default cold calling hands to become default 3-betting instead
– Add a few more hands to call 3-bets with, in particular smaller suited connectors like 65s – 87s and pocket pairs like 55+
– Move some default call 3-bets to 4-bet instead, like for example AQo in CO vs BTN 3-bet
– Punish weak blinds who fold to often by opening wider, especially from CO, BTN and SB
– Understanding when implied odds (see the odds exercise) make it profitable to play a wider range of speculative hands like pocket pairs or lower suited cards
– Play more hands against the bad players so you can take advantage of their lack of skill, even with a hand that is normally not profitable to play
– Adapt preflop ranges to shallow and deep stacks (shallow stack favours high cards and deep stacks favour speculative hands like 76s or 55
It can be challenging to know if your adaptations are profitable. To make sure you are staying profitable when you are making plays outside of the recommended defaults
it is very important to make sure you follow up your profitability in your tracking tool (like PokerTracker or Holdem Manager).
If you are not doing this, it is easy to get carried away and unknowingly make bad plays that end up costing you money.
– Introduction to exercise
– Hand reading example
Introduction to exercise
Hand reading is an essential poker skill that can take years to become good at by just playing poker.
If you practice with the Pokertrainer Hand Reading exercise you can become fairly skilled in a matter of weeks and really strong in a couple of months.
Hand reading is the ability to put your opponent on a likely range of cards and understanding how that range of cards compare to your cards.
If you have no idea what cards your opponent is holding or how your hand will hold up against his, you are just gambling.
This exercise is based on the recommended ranges in the preflop exercise. Both you and your opponent are playing the recommended ranges.
To make it easier to practice hand reading your opponent is 100 % predictable. They are always playing with the recommended range and they are always continuing with the same types of hands after the flop.
When the opponent is the aggressor they bet their entire range on the flop. When the opponent is the defender they call with middle pairs and strong draws
(open ended straight draws, double gutshots, flush draws and better).
This is not a good simulation of how most opponents play, but since the main purpose is to improve hand reading and assessing hand strength, this is considered a worthwhile simplification.
At the flop, turn and river you will be asked if you believe your hand is stronger than your opponents.
In poker when we talk about hand strength we use something called equity to help us judge that. This is different from poker hand rank, which is the best made hand that you currently can make with your two cards and the board.
Equity is a fancy word for the probability that your hand will be best if played to the river. If your equity is for example 40 % this means you will have the winning hand 40 % on the river against your opponents range of hands and all possible cards on the board.
There will be some equal hands as well, those will be shared between you in terms of equity, if 1 % ends up in a split pot that will count as 0,5 % to your equity.
In this exercise you will answer yes or no to if you have the stronger hand. If you answer yes, this is same as saying your equity is above 50 %.
If your answer is wrong you will lose as many seconds as you were off in your answer. For example, if you answer that your equity is above 50 % and in reality it was 34 %, you will lose 16 seconds.
This means you will lose very little time when you make small mistakes, but you will lose a lot when you make real blunders.
The timer is stopped when the animations are running and buttons are disabled until the flop has been dealt.
Mistakes can be reviewed and replayed after each game to reinforce the learning.
Hand reading example
Let’s say we are in SB and we have raised an open from CO who has called our 3-bet. We have:
In this exercises our opponent is always using the recommended ranges from the preflop tutorial. Calling a 3-bet from SB when in CO:
The flop comes:
If you put your cards, this flop and opponents range into an equity calculator like for example Flopzilla (Flopzilla is used in this tutorial) you will see that your equity is 85 % on this flop.
Equity is the probability that you will have the winning hand if the hand is played to the river. This is usually calculated by running the hands over and over again (but with some smartness called Monte-Carlo simulation) in a computer.
To some extent you can estimate this yourself by counting combinations of hands and number of outs and the rule of 2 and 4 (see the odds section for more on this).
But this is rather complicated and very time consuming and not practical at the table.
You can learn to become skilled at estimating equity by analysing hands you have played or just simulating hands and using an equity calculator.
But that is rather boring and very time consuming, using this exercise is a much faster way to become good at estimating equity.
If the turn is:
our equity becomes 67 %.
We find this out by using a filter in Flopzilla where opponent only continues with strong draws, middle pairs and better:
As you can see by the greyed out hands above our opponent has folded AKo and the pocket pairs that are under two of the flop cards (since they are lower than middle pair which are pairs with a J).
QJs is greyed out because there is no combination (or combo) left. The only J that is left in the deck is Jh and the Qh is on the flop – so it is not possible for opponent to have a hand with QJs.
In the image you can also see a count of combinations for each of the remaining hands.
Opponent continues with the hands that are not greyed out. In this example there is one open-ended straight draw (OESD) and that is KTs.
Since that is a straight draw our opponent continues with all combination of KTs (which are four).
He also continues with the hands that have paired with either the Q or the J and with QQ (which is three-of-a-kind on the flop).
Finally he also continues with all suited hands that are two diamonds. Those are only one combination each, for example 76s of diamonds.
The river is:
We have a full-house and our equity is 63 %.
At this point it is manageable to run the calculations manually by counting the combinations we beat:
– AJs – 1 combination (two-pair)
– KJs – 1 (two-pair)
– ATs – 1 (two-pair)
– JTs – 1 (two-pair)
– 87s – 1 (pair)
– 76s – 1 (pair)
– KTs – 4 (straight)
– KQs – 2 (three-of-a-kind)
This is 12 hand combos.
We lose against these hands:
– AQo – 5 (better full-house)
– AQs – 1 (better full-house)
– QQ – 1 (four-of-a-kind)
This is 7 combos.
In total our opponent has 19 hand combinations in his range.
We win against 12 of those => 12 / 19 * 100 = 63 %.
On the river it is a lot easier to calculate equity as you don’t have to think about probabilities for a hand that is behind that will improve to become a better hand.
But even this is impossible to do quickly at the table unless you are a mathematical genius. This is why you need to practice (one way or the other) to improve your skill.
Playing a lot of poker will also help giving you a feeling for equity, but it is hard to know if you are good or not without assessing it.
And it is very unlikely that you are (or will become) great without a lot of deliberate practice where you compare your estimate with the actual result.
In this exercise you will estimate if your equity is above or below 50 % (if you or your opponent is most likely to win the hand if played to the river).
By using Practice mode or by reviewing your mistakes after you have played you will be able to see exactly what the equity actually was.
You will also be able to see exactly which hands your opponent had in his range preflop, flop, turn and river by tapping “Show Worst Mistakes”
and finding the hand you want to examine closer. For each hand there is a button with the streets that you can tap to see exactly what they played.
Mistakes are stored for reviewing if you were off by 5 % or more. Less than 5 % off is so close so it’s not really a mistake worth reviewing.
Mistakes where you are off by 15 % or more are logged as blunders – it can be very costly to make blunders at the poker table, so these you should really strive to eliminate completely.
Good luck with improving your hand reading skills!
- Odds Introduction
- Pot Odds
- Implied Odds
- Playing a Draw
- Break Even Percentage
- Outs – The rule of 4 and 2
- Bubble Factor
- Odds and Probability Tables
Odds IntroductionLike it of not – odds are the basis for every single decision you make at the poker table. If you want to become good at poker you need a good understanding and feeling for how to use odds to make the right decisions. If you want to become great at poker you need to become really good at estimating odds. Examples of when you might be using odds (whether you think about it that way or not) are:
- Decide to draw with a gutshot draw to a straight based on the odds for how much you will win in average when you hit compared to the odds of making the straight
- Decide to call a bet on the river based on the odds from the pot and the odds of you having the best hand
- Decide to raise opponents bet on river with a trash hand based on the money you are risking compared to the money you will win when he fold and the odds of him folding
- Decide to call an opponents all-in bet preflop with your AJs at a late stage in the tournament based the odds from the pot and the odds of your hand winning against his range
Pot OddsPot Odds are the odds that you are getting from the money that is in the pot right now based on how much you have to pay to call (or bet or raise). For example, there is $100 in the pot and your opponent bets $50. Your pot odds would then be 3:1 (read “three to one”) based on that there will be $150 in the pot and you would risk $50 to get a chance of winning those $150. This means that if you win more than one time out of four (25 %) it will be profitable to call. An example of when to use this is when your opponent bet $50 in a $150 pot on the river. Board: Your hand: You have pocket aces. You believe your opponent has made a flush or he is bluffing. If you believe he is bluffing more than 25 % (1 time out of 4 is 25 %) of the time you will be correct to call (if your assumptions are correct). Pot odds are used in poker when there will be no more betting. If there might be more betting you need to use Implied odds (see Implied Odds and Playing a Draw instead). Warning! Only use Pot Odds when you are sure there will be no more betting. In Texas Hold’em and Omaha you are normally using Pot Odds in the following scenarios:
- When opponent has gone all-in
- When opponent bets on the river
- When you consider betting or raising as a pure bluff
- When opponent is very conservative and won’t put more money in the pot even if he has the chance (rare)
When opponent is all-inYour hand: You have AJ of clubs in the Big Blind with $1 and you have 3-bet one of your opponents who is now all-in with $30. Everyone else has folded and you are far from the money or in a cash game (otherwise you need to consider Bubble Factor). Should you call? It depends on the range of cards you are expecting your opponent to play. But let us first take a look at the odds. Small blind is $0.5, Big Blind is $1. Opponent opened with $3 and you raised to $9 and opponent went all in with remaining stack to a total of $30. This means there is $39.5 in the pot (small blind 0.5 + your money $9 + opponents $30). When you decide to call or fold in this situation you only consider the odds, not that you have already invested money. If the odds tell you to fold that is what is business is considered a “sunk cost”. Never waste good money after bad. Pot Odds = Total amount in Pot / Amount to call = 39.5 / 21 => 1.88. This is close to 2:1 odds. AJs has odds of better than 2:1 for all ranges broader than 5 % which means you should call if you estimate that your opponent is on a wider range than top 5 % (AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, AKs, AKo, AQs, AQo). Practice Hand Reading in the Pokertrainer App to improve your skills in how your hand stands against a range and how to read your opponents. Board: Your hand: You have a flush draw on the flop. Your opponent goes all-in with $20 in a pot of $30. You are fairly sure he has a better hand than you right now and that you will have the best hand if you hit your flush draw. Should you call? The Pot Odds are: (20 + 30) / 20 = 5/2 => 5:2. This is the same as 2.5:1. The odds of you making the flush with two cards to come are about 2:1 which makes this an easy call. Look at Playing a Draw for help on how to figure this out.
When opponent bets on the riverBoard: Your hand: You have QQ as an overpair on the river and your opponent bets $30 into a $50 pot on the river. Should you call or fold? You estimate the following distribution of hands for your opponent:
- 1/3 of the time opponent will have worse pair or be on a bluff
- 1/3 of the time opponent will have a higher overpair or three-of-a-kind
- 1/3 of the time opponent will have a straight
When you consider betting or raising as a pure bluffYour opponent bets $4 into a $10 pot on the river. You estimate the following hand range distribution for your opponenent:
- 1/3 of the time opponent will have a weak pair or worse hand.
- 1/3 of the time opponent will have a strong pair or three-of-a-kind.
- 1/3 of a time opponent will have a straight.
When opponent is conservativeYour opponent is very conservative and won’t put any more money in the pot if a flush card hits. You are on a flush draw on the turn. The pot is $60 and opponent bets $20. Should you call? Pot Odds = Total amount in Pot / Amount to call = $80 / $ 20 = 4 => odds are 4:1. The odds of hitting a flush draw is 4:1 (see Playing a Draw). This means that this is what is called a break-even decision in poker. In the long run you will neither win nor lose money on calling. It doesn’t matter what choice you make (it might matter for psychological reasons though).
Implied OddsPot Odds does not take into account that there might be further action in a hand. For example there might be opponents behind that could get involved or you could be on a draw that will win you extra money when you make it. Implied odds is your best guess on what your odds will be at the end of the hand in these situations. It is a vital concept of no-limit poker and is used even more often than Pot Odds. Let’s say for example that you are on a straight draw. The pot is $10, your opponent bets $5. You think that you will win an extra $15 in average if you hit your draw on the next card. No one else is involved in the hand and the next card is the last. Then you will pay $5 to get a chance of winning $30, i.e. your implied odds are 6:1. The odds of hitting the straight draw is 5:1 so this is not a fold (it might be a raise or a call). To make the best decision in poker you must definitely consider raising in many situations when a call is profitable and even when a call is unprofitable (see raising as bluff in the Pot Odds discussion). When bluffing with decent hands exact calculations become very difficult since you might have a decent chance of winning even if opponent does not fold immediately and most players base such decisions on experience and feel for the game and opponents rather than exact calculations. The difference compared to Pot odds is that you add the extra money that you expect to win to the pot.
Playing a DrawWhen you believe that you currently don’t have the best hand this is considered to be a “draw” or “drawing hand”. You might for example be drawing to a straight or flush. This is a common situation when you need to look at the odds to make good decisions. If you learn the odds of hitting the draw for some very common drawing situations and how to calculate your implied odds to compare with you are on a good way to learn some real poker!
- Flush – 4:1
- Open ended straight draw – 5:1
- Two overcards hitting a pair – 8:1
- Gutshot straight draw 10:1
- Two overcards to a pair 7:1
- Half the time a strong pair
- Half the time a pure bluff or two high cards
- Two overcards to hit a pair
- The lower end of a straight (called idiots end because you can lose a lot of money with these straights
- A weak flush when opponent might have high cards
Break Even PercentageIn poker we are often thinking in percentage of chance of winning a hand. For example, if we call a bet of $5 for the chance of winning $15 we need to win the hand at least 25 % of the time for that to be a profitable call. This is our Break-even percentage. If you think about it is makes sense. If we play four rounds and we in average will win one and lose three then we will lose 3 * 5 = 15 and we will win 1 * 15 = 15. That’s break-even, we lose as much as we win. And winning one out of four is the same as 25 %. We can calculate Break-even percentage by dividing the amount for calling with what is in the pot + opponents bet + amount to call (which is same opponents bet) and multiply with 100 to get the percentage.
Outs – The rule of 4 and 2Break Even Percentage is extra helpful together with the rule of 4 and 2. An out is a card that will help you get a hand that you believe is stronger than your opponents. For example if you have an open ended straight draw (you have 4 consecutive cards) there are 8 cards that will help you make your straight – 4 on each end. These cards are called outs. There is a rule of thumb for Texas Hold Em and Omaha that is accurate enough in most cases which says that each out give you 2 % chance of making your hand with one card to come and 4 % chance of making your hand with two cards to come. Example: you are on an open ended straight draw. The pot is $10, your opponent bets $10. You think that you will win an extra $20 in average if you hit your draw on the next card. No one else is involved and next card is the last. You will pay $10 to get a chance of winning $40, i.e. your implied odds are 4:1 and your Break-even percentage (see Implied Odds exercise) is 20 %. An open ended straight draw gives you 8 outs, i.e. 16 % chance and you should not call (but you should consider raising since opponent might fold or you might win a big pot if you hit your draw). Most of the time you will be using the rule of 2 since if you call on the flop, you don’t know what your opponent will bet on the turn when you miss your draw. Most of the time you will have to pay more to see the river. But you do use the rule of 4 when you consider all-in situations on the flop. If you call an all-in on the flop you will see both cards and you will multiply your outs with 4 and compare that with your Break-even percentage. Let’s say for example that you are on a draw to the nut flush. The pot is $20 and opponent goes all-in for $20. Will a call be correct? We have 9 cards that will make our flush, that’s 9 outs. If we multiply 9 with 4 we get our chance to make the flush, 36 %. The Break-even percentage is: Break-even percentage = 100 * Amount to call / (Pot Bet + Bet) BEP = 20 / (40 + 20) * 100 This is the same as 2 / 6 which is equal to 1 /3 which is 33 %. So it is correct to call since our chance of making the flush (36 %) is higher than our Break-even percentage. It is quite often correct to go all-in yourself in the flop when you have good outs. If you in the above example think your opponent might have a good hand and you had acted before he went all-in you could add his fold-equity to your 36 % of making the flush. One of the trickier things when deciding to call based on implied odds is that you sometimes can’t be sure if you will have the best hand even if you hit your draw. Your opponent might for example get a higher flush when you hit yours. Let’s say for example that you are on a straight draw and there is a possible flush draw on the board. If your opponent has the flush draw you can’t count the cards that make your straight that are of the flush draw colour as outs. This is called discounted outs. Since it can be a bit tricky to get used to thinking about outs and implied odds for beginners it is probably best to be a bit pessimistic when you judge your number of outs if you are uncertain. Here is a list of commonly used situations where you look at your outs:
- Gutshot straight draw: 4 outs
- Two overcards: 6 outs
- Straight draw: 8 outs
- Flush draw: 9 outs
- Straight draw with one overcard: 11 outs
- Flush draw with one overcard: 12 outs
Bubble FactorAll the above discussion is based on Cash games or Tournament situations when you are far from the money. In a tournament the value of chips starts to become twisted when you are getting close to the money (the so called Bubble) and when you are in the money. In this situation the needed odds for a call becomes worse, you need a better hand to call. This is because you are getting close to having a chance to win a lot of money if you manage to stay in the tournament. To understand this you should look into the ICM concept and the so called Bubble Factor. The Bubble Factor was coined in “Kill Everyone” and helps you calculate when to call correctly in tournament situations close to the money or in the money. You use it by dividing the actual Pot Odds or Implied Odds with the Bubble Factor. The Bubble Factor is complicated to calculate, but if you use 2 as Bubble Factor when you are right on the bubble in Tournaments with fairly regular prize structure you won’t be too far off. With this I mean when there are 4 players left in the Sit and Go or when there is 201 players left in the Tournament where 200 players will get money. And you use less than 2 after you are in the money. When you are far from the money you can consider the bubble factor to be 1. Sounds complicated? Yes, it is. Important? You bet! Without understanding of how chip values change in Tournaments you will have a huge handicap. You will call too often and you will not raise often enough against opponents who understands proper bubble play.
Odds and Probability Tables
Odds to probability conversion table
|1.5:1 (or 3:2)||40 %|
Playing a draw with outs table
|Flush + gutshot||12||24 %||3:1|
|Open ended straight||8||16 %||5:1|
|Two overcards||6||12 %||7:1|
|Gutshot straight||4||8 %||11:1|