20 essential statistics

You really should commit these numbers to memory before you sit down for your next hand

Rarely worth drawing to, you’ll hit your gutshot straight about 9% of the time

Patience, aggression, cunning, judgement – all essential attributes in the make-up of a winning poker player. But that’s the hard part – the stuff that can’t be taught, and that comes to the small minority through endless days, months, years, of sitting at the poker table and soaking up all the action. So what about the easy bits? The elements that no one, whether they be world champion or home game champion, has an excuse not to know?

Well, that’s simple – it’s basic maths. Poker’s a game of skill and luck, but anyone can maximise the skill and minimise the luck by remembering a few facts. So don’t play another hand until you’ve turned the page and got the following 20 snippets of info lodged in your brain…

1. Premium hands
The probability of being dealt a Group 1 (J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-Ks) starting hand, as defined by David Sklansky in The Theory of Poker, is a mere 2.1%. So don’t wait for them or you’ll 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 or just over a third.

3. ‘S-ooo-ted’
Don’t play any two cards just because they’re suited. The difference 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.

6. Straight talking
If you flop an open-ended straight draw (eight outs) you’ll make it 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 are a prohibitive 7.5/1 – so make sure you only play small pairs cheaply, and in hands where you can cash in if you do hit.

8. Inside straight
Rarely worth drawing to, with the turn and river cards to come you’ll hit your gutshot straight (four outs) approximately 9% of the time.

9. Over-pair
When two pairs go head to head at a showdown, 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 re-raise in front of you, you might want to think about laying the ladies down – 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-Jos vs A-3os on a board of 6-J-9 (different suits) requires the A-3 to hit two consecutive Threes, which is just a 0.3% chance. 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 over-cards is often referred to as a coin-flip or race, because they each win approximately half the time. This varies depending on whether the over-cards are suited or unsuited. The range for suited cards varies from the pair being a 54% favourite to a 46% underdog. The range of off-suit 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 the other person’s, but your kicker is smaller. For example, A-Q against A-K (both unsuited) has only a 24% chance to win (or about one in four).

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. The over-pair will beat the suited connectors approximately 80% of the time.

14. Pocket pair
It might not feel like it but you’ll be dealt a pocket pair, on average, once every 17 hands, 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 124/1.

16. All the twos
The probability of flopping twopair (with two different hole cards both hitting) 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 flop 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 they made on the river.

19. Live cards
You moved all-in with any two cards (not paired or connected) to avoid being swallowed up by the blinds. You were 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.

20. Jack-ass
Pocket Jacks – one of the most maligned hands in Texas Hold’em. And here’s why – the chance of at least one over-card hitting the flop is 52%, putting your fish-hooks in peril more than half the time.

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