Possibly the most misunderstood concept among new poker players is how to calculate poker odds. This skill is a very important step toward becoming a winning player, so I will attempt to explain some of the basics as well as give you a few simple steps to use the information to your advantage at the poker table. Calculating poker odds involves determining how many outs you have, or cards that can come that will improve your hand. This is best shown using an example. Your pocket cards are A 3, both diamonds and the flop is K Q 6 with two diamonds. At this time it is very unlikely that you have the best hand, but there are 9 unseen cards that are diamonds that will give you the best possible flush as well as three Aces that may give you the best hand.
You will have to use your best judgment to determine if an Ace will make your hand the best, but in this situation you have a small kicker so I wouldn’t count it in most situations. We have determined that you have nine outs. What do we do with this information? Nine outs means that one of them will come on the turn or river roughly 34% of the time, giving you approximately 1.9 to 1 pot odds. So to call a bet, there must be at least 1.9 times as much as the bet already in the pot.
This all may sound confusing at this time, but you will find that many of these common situations will quickly become committed to memory. Plus there is a much easier way to approximate your chances of winning. This is not exact, but it is very close. Determine the number of outs that you have, then multiply this number by two and multiply it again by the number of cards left to come, and finally use this as a percentage.
In our example, we have nine outs, multiplied by two equals 18 and multiplied by two again because both the turn and river are yet to come, giving us 36. Use the 36 as a percentage, so you will win almost 36% of the time. If just the river were yet to come, our percentage would be 18%. The actual percentage is almost 20, but notice that both estimates are very close, so you can quickly determine if a call is correct.