Poker’s a game of skill and luck, but you can maximise the skill and minimise the luck by memorising a few key facts – don’t play another hand until you know these essential hold’em stats
1. Premium hands
The probability of being dealt a top-tier premium starting hand (J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-Ks) is a mere 2.1%. So don’t wait for them or you could be blinded out before you play a hand.
2. Flush ‘em out
If you’ve got four cards to the flush after the flop you’ll make your hand 34.97% of the time by the river, or just over a third of the time.
Don’t play any two cards just because they’re suited. The difference in equity between suited and unsuited hands is a mere 2.5%.
4. Paired up
The chance of one of your unpaired hole cards making a pair on the flop is 32.43%, or about a third of the time.
5. Hitting the board
If you see all five community cards you’ll make at least a pair with one of your unpaired hole cards roughly half the time. Which obviously means that half the time you won’t hit anything.
6. Straight talking
If you flop an open-ended straight draw (eight outs to hit) you’ll make your straight by the river 31.5% of the time, so make sure you’re getting pot odds to see the next card.
7. Three of a kind
The odds of flopping a set with a pocket pair are a prohibitive 7.5-to-1, so make sure you only play small pairs cheaply, and in hands where you can cash in if you do hit.
8. Inside straight
An inside straight or ‘gutshot’ draw (four outs) is rarely worth drawing to. With the turn and river cards to come you’ll hit your straight roughly 9% of the time.
When two pairs go head to head, the bigger pair will win approximately 80% of the time (or four times out of five). So when you’re sitting there with Queens and see a bet, raise and reraise in front of you, you might want to think about laying the ladies down, as you could well be up against Aces, Kings, or possibly both.
10. Perfect cards
It’s very rare to be drawing dead after the flop, but there are times when you need two exact cards on the turn and river to win the hand. For example, A-Jo vs A-3o on a board of 6-J-9 (different suits) requires the A-3 to hit running threes, which will happen just 0.3% of the time. If a three arrives on the turn, there’s now a 4.55% chance of hitting the final three on the river to win the hand.
11. It’s a race
A pair against two overcards is often referred to as a coinflip or race, because they each win approximately half the time. This varies depending on whether the overcards are suited or unsuited. The range for suited cards varies from the pair being a 54% favourite to a 46% underdog. The range of offsuit hands varies from the pair being a 57% favourite to a 48% underdog.
12. Kicker trouble
You’re a big underdog in a showdown where your top card matches your opponent’s but your kicker is smaller. For example, A-Q against A-K (both unsuited) has only a 24% chance of winning (or about one in four). This is often described as being ‘dominated’.
13. Suited connectors
People talk about middle suited connectors being the best hand to bust Aces with because of the straight and flush possibilities. But if you’re holding the Aces, don’t panic. Your overpair will beat the suited connectors approximately 80% of the time.
14. Pocket pairs
It might not feel like it, but you’ll be dealt a pocket pair once every 17 hands on average, or about 6% of the time.
15. Flush up
There’s a reason for mucking raggedy hands instead of holding onto them just because they’re suited. The reason being that the chance of flopping a flush is a mere 0.8% or 124-to-1.
16. Double hit
The probability of flopping two pair (that is, two different hole cards both pairing up on the flop) is approximately 2%.
17. Full house
The probability of making at least a full house by the river when you have two pair on the fl op is 16.74%.
18. Full house 2
Even better is when you flop three-of-a-kind, where you’ll make a full house or better by the river 33.4% of the time, or one in three times. Perfect for when someone moves all-in with the nut flush on the river.
19. Live cards
Say you move all-in with any two cards in a tournament to avoid being swallowed up by the blinds and get called by A-K. Oops! Well, you might feel down and out but you’ve still got a decent chance of winning the hand. In fact, your random lower cards will win about 35% of the time. Surprised?
Pocket Jacks is one of the most maligned hands in Texas hold’em. And here’s why: the chance of at least one overcard hitting the flop is 52%, putting your fishhooks in peril more than half the time.
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