How to Start Learning Poker Math
It is time to begin learning poker math. We will take it slowly. In this Juicy Stakes Poker review, we will talk about odds—the chance that something will happen—and equity. These are not the only concepts involved in poker math but they are a good place to start.
Mathematicians Tend to Be Eggheads
This is as cliche-ish as anything about poker! People who try to explain to laypeople the basic math get bogged down very quickly in numbers. So, to simplify things, we need first of all to know how many possible combinations there are on the two cards every player is dealt before the flop.
Start with the ace. There are 12 cards that aren’t an ace so there are 12 non-pair combinations that have an ace per suit. There are, after all, four suits. So, there are 48 non-pair combinations possible to go along with an ace.
Without working this out for every card, we arrive at 1326 total combinations. It is important to divide these combinations into the three categories they fall into.
There will be about 6% pairs. Of those pairs, only about one third will be of a high card—Jack to Ace. A pair of Jacks is the weakest of the high card pairs. The best pairs are aces and Kings and they represent only about one third of one percent of all hands.
Players who never bet in early position unless they get a pair of aces or kings or ace-king suited, will fold almost every hand they are dealt before the flop.
Suited and Non-suited Cards
Let’s say that you don’t have a pocket pair. Then the two cards you do have might be suited and they might be unsuited. Since there are four suits, we can expect that three times as many non-pair combinations will be unsuited and, in fact, that is correct!
You will get a lot more unsuited cards than suited. Now, are all suited cards equal? Are all unsuited cards equal? The answer to both questions is NO!
Suited cards that are consecutive are a lot more valuable than suited cards that for all practical purposes exist on the other side of the planet from each other such as the 2 and the 9!
What are the Odds of Getting a Good Hand before the Flop?
The simplest answer is: Not very good! If that were all that poker math could teach us it wouldn’t be of much use. This is actually just the top layer of what poker math teaches and informs us.
At this stage, we can learn from the odds of getting any given hand that we have to learn to play less than optimum hands! If we always play only top hands, all of our opponents will know that we have a hand in a very narrow range and will probably fold in the face of the strength of our hand.
Poker math at this stage teaches us that fooling our opponents into thinking that we have a stronger hand than we actually do have is very important.
When most people buy a house, they take out a mortgage. A mortgage is a loan from a bank to a home buyer. The buyer then repays the loan over a very long time—usually from 20 to 30 years.
The house does not actually belong to the buyer! The house actually belongs to the bank but the bank can take the house and sell it to someone else only if the buyer fails to pay the mortgage over a specific period of time.
In the early years of a mortgage, the monthly payments are almost all interest on the loan. This is how the bank gets its money back as quickly as possible. Some of the monthly payment is called “equity”. It represents the amount of the house that is actually under the ownership of the buyer.
Equity in Poker
Equity in poker is a lot easier to understand. It is the percentage of the pot that theoretically belongs to any player based on his or her hand and the hand of any opponent who stays in the hand.
This is quite easy to understand with one very important exception. First, look at a pair of twos against a pair of aces. The pair of aces is about five times as strong as the pair of twos. A similar analysis holds for all hands where one player has a low hand and another has a high hand.
The big exception here is that an ace-king combination is a lot stronger than an ace-queen. A lot of players see ace-queen and think that they have a powerhouse. In many hands they do but in another large set of hands, they have a far weaker hand!
The equity of an ace-queen against even an ace-king is about one third. The ace-king is three times as strong as the ace-queen.
Range Based on What We Have Learned
The simplest aspect of range is now available to us. If we have a pair, the chances that any opponent will have the same pair are very low. The chance that an opponent will also have a pair is almost the same as the chance that we would have been dealt a pair.
It is only fractionally less since we have taken out of the deck one of the possible pairs.
What happens when we have the highest pair with cards that are not royals or aces? This is a pair of tens. The only pairs that can defeat this hand in the pre-flop stage are a pair of jacks, queens, kings, or aces and the chances that an opponent will have one of these pairs is only about 7%.
It means that if you know your opponents well, a pair of tens might be a very strong hand before the flop.
What if I have an Ace?
If you have any of the three royals or an ace, even if you don’t have a pair, the chances that an opponent will have a pair that beats you are a lot lower than the chances they have a pair that beats a pair of tens. That’s because you have one of the high cards! If you have two of the high cards, your opponents have even less chance to have a pair that beats you. Therefore, a hand with an ace is a strong hand.
Is it Possible to Make Poker Math Too Complicated?
It is in spades! Some people will shower charts on players and will expect them to learn these charts post haste. We will do our best to make poker math understandable without resorting to a surfeit of complex charts!
You can be certain that Juicy Stakes Poker will do everything we can to make poker as fun as it can be and we’ll also do our best to help you improve your game!