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I am very new to poker and have been reading articles about how to calculate outs. For example if I have a flush draw on the flop then I have a 35% chance of hitting one of my 9 outs on the turn or river (which I can then compare against the pot odds).

The question I have is that if I am head to head against one other player and I have determined that I have a 35% chance of winning then that seems to imply that the other player has a 65% chance of winning, which feels wrong.

I appreciate this is a bit of an over simplified question but as a beginner, what are the main factors I should consider when deciding whether to keep betting, other than outs / pot odds?

  • It doesn't seem that wrong. Would you continue for €2 in a €200 pot if you have a 35% chance of winning? Of course you would! You should check the concept of "pot odds" – David Apr 1 at 14:31
  • I think what I was trying to get at (but couldn't word it as well as Grinch91) was that my opponent could be sat there with a J high, so me not having a flush doesn't necessarily mean I'm losing. Also my current pot odds may be favourable but there are still further rounds of betting so how do I take this into account in my calculations etc. – Leroy Apr 2 at 7:29
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    (un?)fortunately, that's an art rather than a science. There's the concept of implied odds (and reversed implied odds) that try to take into account the chance that the pot grows in later streets. There are still some basic rules, though. For instance, if you are drawing for the nuts and your odds are better than the pot odds, a call is always profitable – David Apr 2 at 11:47
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So just to offer you a small bit of clarity on outs, you absolutely do not have a 35% chance of winning the hand! You have a 35% chance of improving your hand. This is an important distinction to remember because;

  1. You may already be ahead and thus don't need to improve, so the reality of this is you have any card that doesn't make your opponent get ahead of you as an out.
  2. You may already be drawing dead so improving won't matter, typically these situations often end up being someone with the lower end of a straight or a worse flush draw.
  3. You may have the same hand so it's irrelevant improving.

Often improving will give a winning hand, especially with things like flushes, but it's important to remember the above and that outs don't always equal your chance to win.

So to me your main question here is once you've worked out your improvement probability what do you do next? As I often say in my answers on this SE, it really depends on many factors. However with that said some good guidelines as your next steps would be;

  1. When facing a bet work out if you are receiving the correct pot odds to call. I.E. how much chips can we call, and be wrong now, but in the long term be profitable. So let's take your example of the flush, our 9 outs, once the flop has been dealt gives us a 4:1 chance of hitting our flush over the next two cards. Now let's say the pot is 10$, your opponent bets 2$, the pot is now 12$. If you put in your 2$ you're getting pot odds of 6:1 (every 1 you put in, you can win 6). The pot odds are higher than our odds of hitting our draw so we should call. If the pot odds are lower, we should not call. Note that doesn't mean fold, sometimes it's fine to put in a raise.
  2. Ask yourself what your plan for the hand is, are you going to call-fold when you miss, are you going to semi-bluff and put in a raise, will a raise even work against this player, are you comfortable maybe missing your flush draw but hitting your high card and betting?
  3. Understand your opponents and your comfort level, there is no point raising if you're not comfortable doing that as you will make mistake, especially as a beginner. An experienced player will see you're uncomfortable raising and will punish you. The same can apply for your opponent, try understand their comfort levels, how they respond to bluffs, raises, calls, etc. Do they need a strong hand to call a river bet, etc.

To be honest there is no absolute 100% do this every time answer. With that said the above points I hope will highlight to you some things you should ask yourself and consider before you act. I think it's really important to remember if you're not thinking you're gambling, and if you can't explain why you did something with some degree of depth (especially when starting out, get into a good habit now of building a good mental process to decision making) you're making a mistake. It's ok to be wrong, it's ok to have a bluff fail, it's ok to try a play and it doesn't work, but it's really important you understand why you attempted it all.

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