It’s a fact: if you want to be successful in poker, you need to know a little math. Regardless of the pro, they all know about pot odds. You have your extremes like Chris Ferguson who is a math wiz, and then you have your Gus Hansens who are mostly instinctual players. But the one thing they ALL have in common is the ability to determine pot odds and to determine win probabilities.

Why would I use pot odds? Well, let’s say I’m 4 to a straight after the turn and my opponent bets. Should I call? Well, the answer to that is if it is profitable to call. How do you know if it’s profitable? Pot odds.

So, how do we figure this out? It’s not as difficult as you might think. First, you need to figure out the % chance that you’ll make a hand. To do this you need to know how many outs you have to make that hand. If you have 98o and the flop is 6-T-J rainbow, any 7 or Q will make your straight. You assume all four 7s and all four Qs are left in the deck. So you have 8 outs to make your hand.

Here’s where the Rule of 4&2 come in to play. With 8 outs after the flop, you multiply your outs by 4. In this case: 8 outs x 4 = 32. You have a 32% chance that you’ll hit your straight by the river.

Let’s say the turn card is a 2. You still have 8 outs and you would now multiply your outs by 2: 8 x 2 = 16. You now have a 16% chance to catch your straight by the river.

So, the formulas are simple.

After Flop: num of outs x 4 = % to hit

After Turn: num of outs x 2 = % to hit

The Rule of 4 and 2.

The resulting percentage isn’t exact, but it’s close enough.

Now that you know the percent chance to make your hand, you need to determine if the pot is giving you the proper odds to call. Here’s how:

Let’s say there is $100 in the pot. You have 98o and the flop is 4-T-J rainbow. Any 7 or Q will get u a straight. So, you’re 32% to hit one of those cards by the river.

Your opponent is first and bets $75. Is it profitable to call? Well, if you call there will be $250 in the pot. To win $250, you have to risk $75. That $75 represents 30% of the total pot (75/250). So, do you make the call? Yes, because in the long run, it is profitable to do so:

30% < 32% = profitable

Now let’s say the turn card brings a deuce. You still have 8 outs to make a hand with $250 in the pot and have a 16% chance to hit your straight. Your opponent bets $150 in to the pot. You have to call $150 to witn $550. Calling that $150 will represent 27% of the pot. Is the call profitable? No. You should fold:

27% > 16% = not profitable

So, if the pot odds are greater than the chance you have to make a hand, then you should fold. Conversely, if the pot odds are less than the chance you have to make a hand, then you should call.

pot odds > % to make a hand = fold

pot odds <= % to make a hand = call

This may seem daunting at first, but I promise it is not. The more you do it, the easier it will be. Believe me, you need to be able to count outs and pot odds to be a winning player. After awhile, it will come naturally to you.

Bonus tip: when I determine the amount of $$$ in a pot when I’m playing live, I think of bets in terms of units. This helps me narrow the math down in simpler terms. So, instead of thinking there’s $250 in the pot, if the BB is $50, I instead think there are 5 units in the pot. It makes calculating odds much easier.

I also have 1/2 through 1/12 memorized as percentages to make things go faster. For example if I’m getting 1:7 on my money, off the top of my head I know that is about 14%.