Calculating Pot Odds in Texas Hold’em

Poker PlayerCalculating odds and probabilities for Texas Hold’em is easy to learn. Once you understand the terminology, you can quickly figure out the pot odds without relying on a chart or calculator. We’ve broken down the poker math into four easy steps.

Make sure you go through these four steps every time you make a bet.

  • Step One: Determine the number of cards that can improve your hand. Cards that can improve your hand into a winning hand are call "outs." Make sure you do not count outs that will help your opponent make an even better hand.
  • Step Two: Calculate the odds of hitting your outs.
  • Step Three: Calculate the pot odds and implied pot odds. Pot odds compare the cost of calling a bet against the amount of money already in the pot. Implied pot odds compare the cost of calling a bet against the amount of money you expect to win from the final pot.
  • Step Four: Compare the implied pot odds and the odds of improving your hand. If the implied pot odds is 10 to 1 (i.e. it only cost you $1 to stay in a $10 pot) and the odds of you improving your hand is 5 to 1, you should definitely call the bet.
  • Advanced Concepts: Once this process becomes second nature, you can make adjustments to your odds. Consider your opponent, what’s on board and your image when calculating odds.

Step One: Determine the Number of Outs

Outs are unseen cards that will improve or complete your cards to give you the winning hand. For example, if you hold :

and the flop is

You have at least nine outs because there are nine hearts left in the deck that can help you make your flush.

Classic Situations Where You Should Discount Outs

Here are some common situations where you should not give your outs full value:

  1. If your outs would give your opponent a higher straight than yours.
  2. If the flop has two same-suited cards and you do not have that suit, you should reduce your outs by half.
  3. If your outs would give you the top pair, but you have a low kicker, you should reduce your outs by half if you are playing against more than two players. If there are more than three players still left in the game, you should discount those outs completely.
  4. If you are on a flush draw and you do not have a card higher than a Queen, you should discount half of your outs.
  5. If your outs would only give you the second highest two pair, you should discount one of your outs.

Certain outs can improve your hand, but at the same time, give your opponent an even better hand. For example, you hold

and the flop is

You have an open ended straight draw. Since either a 5 or a 10 can help you make a straight, you have 8 outs. However, if another player is holding a Jack, if a 10 hits he will have a higher straight than you.

With the possibility of a higher straight, you must discount some of your 10s as outs. In other words, you can still count the 10 as your out, but you must lower the 10′s value to compensate for the possibility that one of your opponents can use the same 10 to beat you.

If you are only facing one opponent, you can still count at least three of the 10s as outs, since the chances of your lone opponent holding a Jack is slim. However, if there are two opponents left, you should only count two of the 10s as outs.

If there are more than two opponents left, you should not count any 10s as outs, since there is a good chance that at least one of your opponents is holding a Jack.

Step Two: Calculate the Odds of Hitting Your Outs

After identifying your outs, the next step is to figure out the odds of you getting that card.

The following chart shows you the probability and odds of improving your hand based on your number of outs. If you play online, you should post this handy chart next to your computer.

Number of Outs

After Flop
2 Cards to come

After Turn
1 Card to come

Odds to 1 against
Odds to 1 against

The difference between odds and probabilities

Odds and probabilities help us describe how likely an event will or will not happen.

Probability describes how likely an event will happen. For example, the probability of getting dealt a pocket pair is 5.88%, or roughly once every 17 times. (1/17 = 0.0588).

Odds describe how many times something will not happen. For example, the odds against you getting a pocket pair is 16 to 1 (16:1). This means out of 17 hands, you will not get dealt a pocket pair in 16 times.

The Four-Two Ballpark Rule

You won’t be able to carry your chart to a live poker game. When you cannot use the chart, you can use the Four-Two Ballpark Rule to do some quick and dirty odds calculations:

1. After the flop, with two more cards to come: multiply your number of outs by FOUR to get the probability of hitting that out.

2. After the turn, with one more card to come: multiply the number of outs by TWO.

For example, if you are on a four-card flush draw after the flop, you have nine outs. With two more cards to come, you multiply nine by four, which gives you 36%. If you go back to the chart, you can see the estimate is only 1% off the actual number 35%.

If you are on a four-card flush draw after the turn, there is one more card to come. You multiply nine by two to get 18%, which is only 1.5% off from the actual number of 19.6%.

(Note that the greater the number of outs, the less accurate the Four-Two Rule becomes. We do not recommend using this rule if you have more than 16 outs. At 17 outs, 17 x 4 = 68. 68% is eight points off from the correct percentage, 59.8%.)

Basic Probabilities You Should Memorize

There are three basic probabilities every poker player must memorize:

1. Nine outs: Probability of completing your flush draw with two cards to come is 35%, with one card to come the probability is 19.6%

2. Eight outs: Probability of completing your open-ended straight draw with two cards to come is 31.5%, with one card to come the probability is 17.4%.

3. Six outs: with two over cards in your pocket, probability pairing up with two cards to come is 24.1%, with one card to come the probability is 13%.

Step Three: Calculate Pot Odds and Implied Pot Odds

Pot odds compare the cost of calling a bet against the amount of money already in the pot.

For example, if the pot is $10 and you must bet $1 to stay in the hand, the pot odds are 10 to 1 (10:1). This means you can expect a $10 return on your $1 investment if you end up winning the pot.

Implied pot odds compare the cost of calling a bet against the amount of money you expect to win from the final pot.

To estimate the size of the final pot, you must consider how many times and how much the other players will bet in this hand.

For example, you are playing in a three-way $1-$2 game. The pot is $10 and the first player bets $2 on the turn.

You are next to act, and there is a one more player behind you. Right now, the pot odds are 10 to 2 (or 5 to 1).

However, if you believe the third player will call the $2 bet as well, then you can add the third players $2 to your calculation, making the implied pot odds 12 to 2 (6:1).

Moreover, if you expect both of your opponents to each bet another $2 on the river, you can expect to win $16 from the final pot; therefore, your implied odds become 16 to 2 (8:1).

Step Four: Comparing Implied Pot Odds and the Odds of Improving Your Hand

The last step is to compare the odd of making your winning hand against the pot odds or implied pot odds. If the odds of making your hand is greater than the pot or implied pot odds, then you should bet or even raise.

For example, in a $5-10 game, you hold:

The flop comes:

There is $15 in the pot. There are two other players left in the hand, you are in the middle betting position. You all check.

The turn comes:

The first player bets $10. What do you do?

First, calculate your outs. You have nine outs to make a flush. According to the odds chart above, the odds of making a flush with only one card to come is 4 to 1 (refer to chart above).

There is now $25 in the pot, therefore the pot odds is 25 to 10, or 2.5 to 1. Since the odds of improving your hand are worse than the pot odds, you should probably fold.

However, the answer may be different if you applied the more sophisticated implied odds analysis.

There is still a third player behind you. You know the third player loves to play suited connectors. It is possible that he is on the same flush draw. You believe he will probably call the $10 bet, and probably call another bet on the river if you make the flush.

Moreover, you also know the first player is a stubborn person who does not like to fold. You believe he will also call an additional bet on the river even if you make your flush.

Therefore, you have reason to believe that the final pot will be at least $55. Therefore, the implied pot odds is $55 to 10, or 5.5 to 1.

Pot Odds vs. Implied Pot Odds

You might wonder why we discuss pot odds at all, when implied pot odds seem to give us so much more information. When you are confident in your ability to read players and situations, you should always rely on implied pot odds. However, if you are unfamiliar with the players at your table, you will have a hard time making educated guesses regarding the other player’s expected reactions. In this case, it would be smarter to stick with pot odds until you learn more about your opponents.

Advanced Concepts

Factors to Consider When Calculating Implied Pot Odds

Here are some things a good player considers while calculating implied pot odds.

  • Aggressive opponents increase your implied pot odds: the more aggressive your opponents are, the more likely they will pay you off. Conversely, cautious opponents decrease your pot odds because they are less likely to call your big bets.
  • Hidden hands increase your implied pot odds: if you are going for an inside straight or backdoor flush draw, your opponents will probably misread your hand.
  • The size of the pot increase your implied pot odds: the bigger the pot is the more likely your opponents are willing to call every bet you make.
  • Your aggressive table image increase your implied pot odds: if your opponents know you recently took down a pot by bluffing, they are more likely to call your bets.
Playing Against the Odds

Poker pro David Sklansky cautions that you cannot always use pot odds as your guide. If you always fold when the pot odds are against you, your opponents will label you as a "folder." Once in a while you have to make a call that is not justified by the odds just to keep your opponents guessing.

Sklansky’s Hand Ratings

David Sklansky’s starting hand ratings has influenced countless poker players around the world. He’s the author of the classic book, The Theory of Poker, which is a must-read for anyone serious about becoming a winning player.

Hand Rank Group
Your First Two Cards
Playable From These Positions
1 AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs

Early, Middle, Late

2 TT, AQs, AJs, KQs, AK

Early, Middle, Late.

3 99, JTs, QJs, KJs, ATs, AQ

Early, Middle, Late

4 T9s, KQ, 88, QTs, 98s, J9s, AJ, KTs

Early, Middle, Late

5 77, 87s, Q9s, T8s, KJ, QJ, JT, 76s, 97s, Axs, 65s Early*, Middle, Late
6 66, AT, 55, 86s, KT, QT, 54s, K9s, J8s, 75s Middle**, Late
7 44, J9, 64s, T9, 53s, 33, 98, 43s, 22, Kxs, T7s, Q8s Late***
8 87, A9, Q9, 76, 42s, 32s, 96s, 85s, J8, J7s, 65, 54, 74s, K9, T8  

* Playable in early position if game is loose/passive.
** Playable in middle position if game is loose/passive.
***Playable in late position if you are the first to bet.

Hand Suited Not Suited Hand Suited Not Suited Hand Suited Not Suited
AA - 1 JJ - 1 77 - 5
AK 1 2 JT 3 5 76 5 -
AQ 2 3 J9 4 7 75 6 -
AJ 2 4 J8 6 8 74 9 -
AT 3 6 J7 8 -      
A9 5 8       66 - 6
Ax 5 - TT - 2 65 5 8
      T9 4 7 64 7 -
KK - 1 T8 5 8      
KQ 2 4 T7 7 - 55 - 6
KJ 3 5       54 6 8
KT 4 6 99 - 3 53 7 -
K9 6 8 98 4 7      
Kx 7 - 97 5 - 44 - 7
      96 8 - 43 7 -
QQ - 1       42 8 -
QJ 3 5 88 - 4      
QT 4 6 87 5 8 33 - 7
Q9 5 8 86 6 - 32 8 -
Q8 7 - 85 8 -      
            22 - 7

Phil Helmuth's Starting Hands

“Tight is right and supertight is better than right.”
   -Phil Hellmuth in Play Poker Like the Pros.

Top 10 Starting Hands for Beginners
1 AA
2 KK
3 QQ
4 AK
5 JJ
6 10 10
7 99
8 88
9 AQ
10 77
Additional Starting Hands for Intermediate Players
  66, 55, 44, 33, 22
  Ax suited

Phil Hellmuth guarantees that if you limit yourself to playing only these ten starting hands, you can crush any average game. Hellmuth suggest you can play these hands from any position, and should almost always raise and rereaise with these hands.

Sounds simple enough. But if poker is really that easy, wouldn’t everyone make it to the final table of the World Series of Poker? Is Hellmuth’s simple system really that powerful?


  • Easy to remember. If you are a novice, you would appreciate the simplicity of Hellmuth’s system. Instead of remembering the more complex hand groupings advocated by Sklanksy, Hellmuth’s system is devastatingly simple: Play all pairs from AA to 77, and play AK and AA. With less to remember, a novice can concentrate on observing other players instead of worrying about whether AJ suited can be played in late position.
  • Very small swings. Since you will be playing with the very best hands, you will almost always have a great statistical advantage in most hands you play. You won’t win big with Hellmuth’s system, but you will build your stack slowly but surely.


  • Boredom: The biggest drawback to Hellmuth’s system is that it is boring. The chance of getting dealt high pocket pairs is extremely low. If you stick to Hellmuth’s system, ninety percent of the time you will not be involved in a hand.
  • Predictability: After an hour or two, your opponents will recognize that you only play the top ten hands. If you are playing against halfway decent players, they will start folding whenever you get a good hand. In the long run, this can get very frustrating.
  • Suited cards: Hellmuth recommends that only intermediate players play Ax suited cards. I disagree with this assessment. Suited A2, A3, A4, A5, AT, AJ, AQ, and AQ are all very good starting hands. If you look at the expected value chart, which analyzes the rate of return of each starting hand, you can see that those suited hands generally yield a positive return.

    You don’t need to be an intermediate level player to profit from Ax suited cards. Ax suited cards are easy to play. If no one raised preflop, you should always limp in with Ax suited cards. If you don’t see at least two cards of the same suit on the flop, simply fold. If the flop give you a flush draw, you should pay to see the turn card if at least three other players are in the hand. With more people in the hand, the potential size of the pot justifies calling at least one bet to see one more card on the turn.


If you have never played Texas Hold’em before in your life, Hellmuth’s top ten starting hands is the system for you. However, while Hellmuth’s system is a good starting point for beginners, by no means can any player rely on this overly simplistic system. Poker is a game of deception and expectations. You must mix things up to win. As I’ve suggested earlier, try mixing in suited cards like A2, A3, A4, A5, AT, and AJ into your rotation of playable hands.

David Grey Interview

David Grey at the WSOPPros such as Howard Lederer often refer to David Grey as one of the top cash game players in the world. At the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP), David picked up his second WSOP bracelet, proving once again that he is also an elite tournament player.

David took home his second bracelet by winning the No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw tournament. He won his first bracelet in 1999 and has been in the money eight times at the WSOP. (OPC) caught up with a relaxed and elated David right after his big win. OPC asked David to share his views on legalizing online poker, the element of luck at the WSOP, the lifestyle of a poker pro, and David’s WSOP final table experiences.

OPC: Congratulations on your second WSOP bracelet! Can you tell us about your final table experience?

David Grey: Thank you. I was very lucky to survive, because I had no hands, and that guy (smiles and points to John Hennigan across the room) had a lot of hands.

[Editor's note: John Hennigan took second place in the No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw event, winning $217,110.]

OPC: Do you believe in luck David?

David: It’s not that I believe in luck. But when you look at what happens, there is obviously a ton of luck involved.

In the short term, if a good player plays against a complete novice, the novice may win one out of a hundred times, because the novice doesn’t know the basic strategies.

But when you get down to a bunch of very good players at the end, especially in a tournament setting, where the antes and blinds are way high, then luck is a much bigger factor than being a good player.

OPC: What about these online players you see all over the WSOP? Are they good or lucky?

David: The nice thing about poker is that the guy who has been playing six months online, or a old timer who has been playing twenty, sixty years, both have a legitimate chance of winning against me, Phil Ivey, or Doyle during a tournament.

I don’t think the average player can play against us for a year and win, but for one day, they can sit down at a poker tournament and bust us.

Like Chris Moneymaker, a fairly inexperienced player, had a couple of good instincts about poker, but really didn’t have the experience, never played for big money, never played with good players, and he went all the way through the [2003 WSOP] and won.

He beat me, by the way. I came in eighth, which is annoying. (Laughs) Knocked me out with 54.

Last year, Greg Raymer, a fairly inexperienced player, though more experienced than Chris was, made a lot of right decisions, and every time there was a 50-50 he won it, and he did very well.

This year, someone like Chris Moneymaker or Greg Raymer will win the main event. It’ll be someone who no one has ever heard of.

OPC: Chris and Greg both won their WSOP entries online. Do you think online poker should be legalized in the United States?

David: It is not technically illegal. I don’t think you can legalize something that is not really illegal. I think it would certainly be better if the whole thing is out of the gray zone.

I believe in the rights of the people and the Constitution. Right now, it is unclear whether the American government can tell you what you can do on the internet.

I would like to think that anybody who is running a legitimate website, one that is servicing their customers, should be able to have their customers not feel like they are doing anything wrong.

It would be great if the U.S. government regulates it, instead of it being regulated by some gaming tribe in Canada. It’d be better if it could be regulated by the state of Nevada or the federal government. People seem to have more faith in that jurisdiction, as opposed to Guatemala or some small Caribbean country.

OPC: The ultimate dream of every online novice is to quit their nine-to-five cubicle existence and become a poker pro. Can you tell us a little bit about the day-to-day life of a poker pro? Are you playing poker all the time?

David Grey not smiling

David Grey not smiling

David: In general, aside from the large WSOP and WPT events, I don’t even know when I’m going to play poker. I do what I want to do.

If the weather is good, maybe I’ll play some golf, or do something with my wife. Around six to seven at night, I would call the poker room at the Bellagio and find out if anyone is around.

I never plan my days around poker. Celine Dion’s husband, Rene, plays on Friday nights. He’s a friend of mine, so I like to meet up with him for games on Friday nights.

A few years ago, I used to play a lot of games with Larry Flynt at the Hustler. We played four to five times a week. But in general, I just do what I want to do and play poker when I feel like it.

Sometimes I play a day of golf, I sit down, watch some TV, go to dinner, and I just call it a day. (Laughs)

OPC: What’s your favorite movie?

David: Godfather, definitely the Godfather.

OPC: Favorite book?

David: I enjoy a lot of sports biographies. I like Jerry Kramer’s “Instant Replay,” which chronicles the Green Bay Packers’ 1968 season.

OPC: If you had a chance to play poker against any historical figure, who would it be?

David: Good question. Maybe Abraham Lincoln?

OPC: But he’s “Honest Abe,” it hardly seems fair.

David: (Laughs) True. OK, JFK then. I would’ve liked to sit down with him, one on one.

OPC: For the diehard fans, can you give us more details of how you beat out John for the bracelet?

David: At the final table John was the low man. He had barely any chips. He had $39,000 and I had $79,000, out of about a million for the entire table.

Mark Weitzman had about $355,000. And we were playing really high already, like $2,000-$4,000 blinds. There could easily be $100,000 to $200,000 in one hand.

And John lost the first time he played. He was in the big blind and he had to throw his hand away. So he was down close to $30,000. But he proceeded to win a lot of hands and get a hold of a lot of chips.

I just won a little pot here, a little pot there. Really didn’t have any major confrontations.

When it was down to four people, I only had about $180,000, and John had about $500,000 by then. The blinds were getting really high by then. I just managed to tread water, I was able to avoid all the land mines and stay alive without ever having any good hands or anything.

OPC: So your patience paid off?

David: It wasn’t even necessarily patience. I wasn’t throwing away potential good hands. The ante gets so high you can’t really afford to fold. I wasn’t making any major lay downs. We were four very good players there at the end, so the cards sort of just played themselves. I was fortunate enough to have lousy enough cards that I never got broke.

When it came down to heads up, I started getting some nice hands and John had nothing. So I started winning the blinds and antes. I started nibbling my way up from $240,000 to $330,000.

And all of a sudden I opened a hand, and John raised. I opened for about $50,000. He raised me for $100,000, and I moved in the rest of my chips. I had pat 9. John called and drew one card, a picture card, so I won that hand.

Now all of a sudden I had $660,000 and he had $340,000.

On the very next hand, he had a 9 and I had an 8. I was lucky to hang in there and boom, in two hands the game was over.

OPC: How does it feel to add another bracelet to the collection?

David: Just having one is an honor. I went up against some great players and I was happy with the way I played. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Lee Jones Interview

Lee Jones of PokerStarsLee Jones is the Poker Room Manager for He is also a columnist for Card Player Magazine and the author of Winning Low Limit Hold’em, one of the most popular poker books of all time. (OPC) interviewed Jones at the 2005 World Series of Poker (WSOP), and asked Jones why PokerStars players are so successful at the WSOP.

OPC: The last two WSOP champions came from PokerStars: Chris Moneymaker in 2003 and Greg Raymer in 2004. Are we going to have another PokerStars champion this year?

Lee Jones: The possibility is very high. I think 1,116 of our players qualified for the main event. That represents about one fifth of the field.

OPC: Does that mean there is a 20% chance that the champ will be a PokerStars player?

Lee Jones: I think the chance is even greater than that.

OPC: That’s interesting. Some professional players say the success of the online players may have been flukes.

Lee Jones: The PokerStars players are better than the average player. They qualified by winning big tournaments on our website. They have played a lot of tournaments and they have the experience.

OPC: Can online poker experience help in a live tournament?

Lee Jones: Online tournament experience is definitely valuable. It is so easy and convenient to play online that millions of people learn poker in the comfort of their own homes. They can get a ton of experience playing online without the hassle of traveling to a cardroom.

OPC: Why do you think PokerStars is sending more players to the WSOP than any other online poker room?

Lee Jones: PokerStars is known for being the best tournament site and I think our success at the World Series shows that. We have more online tournaments than any other site.

OPC: Has the WSOP increase the popularity of poker?

Lee Jones: The ESPN coverage of the WSOP has definitely increased poker’s popularity.

The explosion in the popularity of poker has been phenomenal, amazing. Just a few years ago there were less than 300 total players in the World Series. Today that number represents just PokerStars’ entries.

Andy Bloch Interview

Andy Bloch at the WSOPA man of many talents, Andy Bloch has a law degree from Harvard, two engineering degrees from M.I.T., and a short but successful career as a stock trader.

But there is no doubt Andy is a born gambler. Andy was a member of the infamous M.I.T. blackjack team, and he actually cut classes during law school to play in the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

While Andy has passed the bar and can probably have any legal job he wants, he refuses to commit to a career in law.

“I tell my parents I’m still looking,” Andy mused. (OPC) sat down with Andy at the 2005 WSOP, and we talked to Andy about religion and poker, how to make money in tournaments, and Andy’s WSOP performance.

OPC: Andy, the number of players at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is larger than ever. Would you say you need a bit of luck to win it all?

Andy Bloch: Luck is a huge factor. You cannot beat 5,800 people without getting lucky at some point. At least, you must avoid getting unlucky.

You have to avoid bad luck so many times that luck becomes a huge factor. There are several times when you can get [your chips] in as a 3 to 1 favorite and win. But it is hard to win five or six of those hands in a row, which is what you need to do to beat that many players.

OPC: As a poker player, do you feel that you are more superstitious or religious than the average person?

OPC: (Laughs) I think it is unlucky to be superstitious.

This might get misinterpreted, but poker is a godless game full of random pain. What I mean is that praying to God is not going to help you become a better player; unless, of course, praying relaxes you and makes you play better.

But praying is not going to get you the cards you need. It is not going to help you survive. It’s up to you. It is not up to luck. It is not up to God.

OPC: You call poker a game of random pain, but you obviously love it. Which part of poker appeals to you?

Bloch: For me, I like looking at how I’m playing and analyzing whether I’m playing well or not. I can be much more objective than most people. I’m continually looking at my game. So I’m not worried if I lose one day, one week, or one month. As long as I can look back and see that I’ve played well.

OPC: What are some of your proudest accomplishments in poker?

Bloch: I’ve won a few major poker tournaments. No World Series events, although I did win a World Series Circuit event. I have a couple of World Poker Tour final tables. I have more cashes in the WPT than anyone but Daniel Negreanu and a few other players.

OPC: Do you play a lot of tournaments during the year?

Bloch: Yeah, I play mostly tournaments during the year. I play one to two hundred of them during the year.

OPC: Do you prefer them over cash games?

Bloch: Now I do. If you are trying to make a living playing poker, tournaments are they way to go.

When you play tournaments, you have ways to make money off poker without actually playing poker. If you do well in tournaments, you get recognized. There are starting to be some sponsorship deals and opportunities to make money. Selling books, DVDs, that kind of thing. You didn’t have too much of that before. Now you have so much of it. So now it is worth it to play poker tournaments.

However, I would not recommend it to people unless they have another source of income. That other source of income may come from playing cash games. If you’re playing cash games, and you’re up for the month, and you want to play poker tournaments, go ahead. But do it as a hobby or as something fun on the side. In these huge fields, it is not a easy way to make a steady income.

It is so volatile, so volatile. You can play in the World Series, enter every event–some of them are multiple rebuy events–and you can lose over $100,000. And that’s just over five to six weeks.

And a lot of the people who play in every event don’t cash and earn money. Daniel [Negreanu] got two cashes, but he probably lost more than me because I didn’t play every event. There are many top players who go through the entire World Series without cashing.

It fluctuates a lot. You have to maintain a lot of focus. It could be very difficult. You must be prepared everyday to play your best poker.

OPC: What do you do when you’re not playing in tournaments?

An interview with Andy Bloch

An interview with Andy Bloch

Bloch: I play on Full Tilt poker a lot. A lot of top pros are involved with that site. We helped design the site, we play on the site, and we give lessons on the site.

I’m on there ten hours a week. I play mostly No Limit Hold’em, and some Pot Limit Omaha. I usually play two to three tables at once. I play real money, play money, everything basically.

At Full Tilt, You have a chance to play against the great players in the poker world for play money, low limits, small buy-in tournaments, you name it. Regular players can interact with the pros. It’s a great opportunity.

OPC: Is there a rivalry between the Full Tilt team and other online poker teams?

Bloch: There is a little bit of a rivalry. We had a Transatlantic Cup tournament in Monte Carlo against the Hendon Mob. There were four Hendon Mob players and four Full Tilt players there. (Smiles) We beat them, three to one.

OPC: You’re also known as a great blackjack player, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Bloch: I use to play a lot of blackjack. That’s actually how I got started in poker.

I joined the MIT blackjack team early on. Playing on the MIT blackjack team gave me a steady income. I felt very comfortable quitting my job and becoming a professional gambler. When I started, I actually learned more from blackjack. Since I’ve been kicked out of so many casinos for my blackjack play, I started playing poker

OPC: The casinos that banned you from the blackjack tables still let you play poker?

Bloch: (Smiles) Sometimes they don’t, sometimes they do.

OPC: The book “Bringing Down the House,” tells the story of the MIT blackjack team winning millions of dollars from casinos with legal card counting techniques. Were you part of that whole scene?

Bloch: The book talks about two blackjack teams, the amphibians and the reptiles. The book is about the reptiles, I was one of the amphibians. I’ve played with most of the characters in that book. When I joined, it was one team. Later on the team split apart, about the same time the main character in the book joined.

At one time, we were four to five different groups, each calling ourselves the MIT blackjack team. We had a good time, but now it is mostly poker for me.

OPC: How many days a year are you playing poker?

Bloch: About half of the days. During the World Series, it is every day for six weeks.

OPC: What is the poker lifestyle like?

Bloch: Poker players never wake up any earlier than noon. The big games hardly start before the afternoons or evenings. But now the new tournaments start at noon, so you have to wake up earlier.

At this year’s World Series, the first three days start at 11:00 a.m. That sounds great for some people, but poker players aren’t used to that early start time. We’re used to staying up really late, long hours.

The lifestyle is not as glamorous as it seems all the time. It can be but you have to withstand the swings. A lot of people would not enjoy that.

OPC: What is your favorite movie?

Bloch: Gandhi.

OPC Can you tell us a little bit about how you busted out of the 2005 World Series of Poker’s main event?

Bloch: Most of my chips were lost when I had about $12,000. I had 99. I called a raise and the flop came 6-7-8. The other guy bets $500, I raised and made it $2,000. He called pretty quickly, so I know I’m behind and need to catch up.

I caught a 10 on the turn, which gives me a straight (6-7-8-9-10). Unless he had a J9, which I highly doubted, I was way ahead. The pot is over $5,000 now, so I put him all in. He called, and showed me pocket 10s. So he had a set, and I was a four to one favorite on that hand. Unfortunately, a 7 came on the river and he made a full house (10-10-10-7-7).

That got me short stacked to about $3,000 or $3,800. A little while later, I limped in with JT, the flop was K-J-10. Same player has AQ. He flopped a straight and I flopped bottom two pair.

It was one of those situations where, you flopped bottom two pair, and you don’t want to give KQ or AK to get a free shot at you. Someone could easily have thirteen outs on you. So you want to make sure you’re getting them out, or that you’re making them pay for it.

So I bet the turn. I guessed I could’ve checked the turn. If I had just checked the turn I probably would’ve still been in the tournament, because on the river came a king. So the king would’ve counterfeited my two pair. Anyone with a king would’ve had me beat. Plus there was another player in the pot. So that hand could’ve turned out differently, I suppose.

OPC: Are you happy with the way you played the rest of the tournament?

Bloch: I’m happy with the way I played. There were a couple of things I could’ve done a little bit differently. A couple of moves I could’ve made.

But you never know, those could’ve backfired. I might have someone read wrong, you never know. (Shakes head and smiles.) Sometimes you just don’t know.

Daniel Negreanu Interview

Daniel NegreanuBy 18, Daniel Negreanu was already a rounder at Toronto cardrooms, where he ate sandwiches packed by his mom and won money from people twice his age.

The youngest player to ever win a World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet, Negreanu currently has six WSOP bracelets. (OPC) caught up with Negreanu at the 2005 WSOP, and asked about his WSOP strategy, his personal life, the future of online poker, and the secret to his success.

OPC: I want to congratulate you on your engagement. Do you think getting married will affect your game?

Daniel Negreanu: (Big smile) Thanks. I think getting married will definitely improve my game. Having a foundation will make me a better player. Now I play more responsibly and I’m more focused. Like Jack Nicholson said in “As Good as It Gets,” my wife makes me want to be a better man.

OPC: How do you feel about your chances for this year’s World Series of Poker?

Daniel: I’m feeling confident. Elimination from the big event is the worst day of any poker player’s life. I will do my best to avoid getting that feeling.

OPC: Do you do any special preparations for the World Series of Poker?

Daniel: Definitely no caffeine, no alcohol. I like to study tapes of games to get in the mood. I also like to watch “Rocky” to get pumped up. You know, you can’t listen to that music without getting excited!

I also want to stay away from too many people. Being with too many people can feel draining at times. At most tournaments I enjoy spending my breaks taking pictures and signing autographs. I love the fans and I enjoy doing stuff like that. But the WSOP is special. I will probably stay away from the crowds a bit.

OPC: You’re one of the friendlier players at the tables. You’re always chatting with your opponents. Is that part of your strategy?

Daniel: I’m not one of those stoic players. Poker is a fun game and I like to enjoy myself at the table. When you get people talking, you put them at ease; they start acting more naturally, and become easier to read. It makes the game more fun for the spectators as well.

OPC: How would you describe your playing style?

Daniel: I do more pre-flop calling than some. I trust my post-flop play because I’m pretty good at reading people after the flop. Playing people and position post-flop are definitely my strengths. When I get into a hand, I’m aggressive but I’m also paying attention to my opponent’s betting patterns.

OPC: What mentality do you need to become a successful poker pro? What is the secret?

Daniel: A disregard for money. You must be willing to go broke. Many poker players are big spenders. When I go into a store, I sometimes just point at things and buy them without asking for the price.

How much are the things I’m buying? Sometimes I don’t really know. At the poker table, you can’t be thinking about the money.

(Editor’s note: The day before the interview, Negreanu paid $10,000 for a jersey signed by other poker stars at a charity auction benefiting the Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club.)

OPC: So for poker players money is just a way to keep score?

Daniel: In a sense. When you’re playing cards you can’t constantly think about what the money costs you in the real world. You can’t be constantly concerned about that if you want to be successful.

OPC: A lot of magazines are promoting the “poker lifestyle.” What exactly is that lifestyle like?

Daniel: There are two sides to it: The one presented by the media and the real one. The one you see on TV is players with fancy mansions and nice cars. But the reality is different. The reality is tedious. There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of traveling around, a lot of waiting. The truth is many pros are struggling to get by like everyone else.

OPC: What’s the poker lifestyle’s one defining feature?

Daniel: Freedom! You can wake up at noon and play all night if you want to.

OPC: Is that why poker is so popular?

Daniel: Poker is the American dream. People of all shapes, sizes, gender and ethnicity can win. The average Joe can succeed. A guy like me can’t really become a basketball superstar. On the other hand, anyone can become a poker pro. You can sit down at a table, play against the top players in the world, and have a chance to win. No other sport offers that chance.

OPC: Do you think poker skills are useful in real life?

Daniel Negreanu and Calvin Ayre

Daniel Negreanu and Calvin Ayre

Daniel: There is this great book called “The Poker MBA,” which I highly recommend. Poker is a lot like business. It is all about profiling people, learning about how people react under stress, and assessing risks. Read the book, it is worth your time.

OPC: There are a lot of online players at the World Series of Poker. Do you think they are screwing up the tournament for the pros?

Daniel: Not at all. Online players can buy into the satellites for $20, $40. It has really increased the popularity of the game. More players mean more money. For example, the winner this year will take home $7.5 million. So I’m not complaining.

OPC: There are so many online poker rooms out there competing for business. Which poker room do you think will come out on top?

Daniel: Bodog is a great room. Party Gaming is also huge. I think the result will depend on the legislation [legalizing or criminalizing online poker] in the next few years.

There is still a good 2-3 years of soft games left online. But eventually, more online players will improve and the games on sites like Party won’t be as soft as they are today.

OPC: Where do you like to play online?

Daniel: I used to play on PokerStars. I enjoy playing in their tournaments.

OPC: Is it harder to spot “tells” when you play online?

Daniel: Too many players focus on physical tells. For both online and live games, you should be focusing more on betting patterns and histories. The ability to figure out your opponent’s hand based on his betting pattern is a crucial skill.

OPC: What do you like to do with your free time?

Daniel: I’m a total fantasy sports freak, especially with hockey. I also enjoy watching reality shows like “The Real World” and “Road Rules.”

OPC: What about music? It seems like everyone has an iPod at the tables. What kind of music do you listen to during a game?

Daniel: Just relaxing stuff. I like to listen to ocean waves or massage music just to relax and keep calm throughout the tournament.

OPC: You are the new “poker ambassador” for the Wynn Las Vegas Casino. Can you give us your impression of their cardroom?

Daniel: I really enjoy playing at Wynn’s poker room. It has lots of space, it is much less intimidating than other rooms, and it has a courteous staff.

The hard part of live poker is getting your foot into the door. The Wynn makes it easy, I think. I like the old-school, dark and green colors. I don’t like the bright colors you see in other casinos. That kind of takes away from the poker atmosphere.

Clonie Gowen Interview

Clonie Gowan at the WSOPCycalona Gowen, better known as Clonie, is the new face of poker. Clonie’s beauty-queen good looks, genteel manner and savvy tournament play has made her a favorite among poker fans.

Clonie solidified her poker credentials in 2003, when she won the WPT Ladies’ Night tournament, beating out top players Jennifer Harman, Annie Duke and Evelyn Ng. (OPC) interviewed Clonie at the 2005 World Series of Poker, and she revealed why dating poker players is a bad idea, her experience as woman on the tour, and how her family handles her celebrity.

OPC: The WPT Ladies Night was the highest rated WPT show ever. Did winning that tournament change your life?

Clonie Gowen: It definitely upped my career. Anytime you’re on television you become more recognizable. My life changed quite a bit after that.

OPC: You were on your high school’s state championship basketball team. Does playing sports contribute to your competitive streak?

Clonie: Oh yeah. Most players are very competitive and many have played some kind of sport. What drives a person to play poker, I think, is their competitiveness.

Poker players know that in this game, they will have an advantage if they are able to discipline their brain to get them where they need to be. So when you’re older, you can’t really make that shot or you can’t run that mile, but you can still be competitive with your brain.

OPC: What position did you play on your basketball team?

Clonie: I was both a guard and a forward.

OPC: Can you tell us a bit about your two kids?

Clonie: I have a 12-year-old daughter (Morgan) and a 3-year-old son (Seth).

OPC: Have you taught Morgan how to play poker?

Clonie: She’s actually been around poker since she was three. But it is not really her thing and I don’t really push her. We focus on the math part. Other than that, if you ask her about poker, she will say, “That’s my mom’s deal!”

But she likes poker because its hot right now, and her friends like it. But if we’re at home and I’m on TV, and there’s nobody else around, she doesn’t want to watch me on TV. Like any kid, she wants to go do her own stuff.

OPC: So she is pretty aware of mom’s celebrity?

Clonie: Oh yeah. Her math teacher this year asked, “Can I get your mom’s autograph?” So she’s extremely aware of it; and her friends at school are as well. At school functions parents will come up to me and tell me how much they love poker.

She’s not quite as impressed as other people would be about it. She’s lived with it. She’s just like, “This is my mom, there’s nothing cool about her, mom’s not cool.”

OPC: Do you take her along for the tournaments?

Clonie: I do. She was out here [in Las Vegas] for the World Series. She left last week, but she was here for a while.

OPC: Your trademark is that you always look extremely relaxed. What is your secret? How do you stay so calm?

Clonie: I’m just a very calm person altogether. I get emotional like any other person. But with poker, there are certain things you can control and things you can’t control.

When someone out draws you on a hand, your reaction to that is something you can control. If you lose that control you will lose the game eventually, because you’re going to go on tilt.

So that’s just something I focus on. If I make a bad read or a bad play, I will get extremely upset about that, but I may not show it at the table.

But later on when I’m analyzing that hand, I’ll think, dang, why didn’t I pick up or figure out the information I needed? So that’s when I really get upset or out of control. But I usually never lose control at the table; it is usually on the drive home, then I’ll be hitting my head on the steering wheel.

But when I play at home, playing online poker, I would scream, “Oh shoot what have you done!” At home, there’s no one around, so you can kind of do that.

OPC: Do you take your online game as seriously as your live game? Are you playing to win?

Clonie: When I play online, I’m usually on the .50/$1 tables. Those limits don’t really mean much to me, so I like to get in there and raise a lot of pots.

I still want to win; I never lay down to anybody. I play for charity, so anything I win there goes to my charity, so I don’t want to lose for sure. But I do create a lot of action. For the most part, if you play at my table, and you know I’m an action player, you know I’m good to play with. I’m going to raise, every time I’m coming in I’m going to raise, and I’ll play my hands aggressively. You can pick up some chips with me, playing against me online.

[Editor's note: Clonie is a spokesperson for Full Tilt poker. She plays on Full Tilt exclusively.]

OPC: A lot of our readers play online, so that’s good to know.

Clonie: Some of the best players play at Full Tilt’s tables, especially those .50/$1 tables.

Now when you see Phil Ivey play $100/$200, he’s not playing for charity. But when you see me or some of the other top players play at the lower limit, .50/$1 tables, we’re usually playing for charity or for fun.

On the lower limit tables, there are 80 people trying to chat with me at the same time, there’s no way I can have full focus on that game. I have no idea what everybody is doing. I’m raising a lot, and I’m probably playing four other games at the same time.

I have a short attention span online, so I have to play multiple games and I also try to keep up with all the chat.

(Laughs) It is probably not good poker. If you want to play poker you probably have to sit down at one table and focus on the game.

OPC: Do you set aside a specific time to play online poker? If I’m a fan who wants to find you on Full Tilt, when is the best time to catch you?

Clonie: When I’m at home, I’ll play for at least an hour a day. But during tournaments it is hard to find the time sometimes. You’ll see me when I’m catching a flight; usually I like to play an hour or two before a flight. But during huge tournaments like the World Series, I’m not online that much.

OPC: Do you think online poker is a good way for women to start playing poker? Is it less intimidating?

Clonie: It is definitely a good way to learn the game. I wish I had online poker when I started learning the game because live games can be intimidating.

To be able to sit down and play, to know things like position and what cards to play, that kind of thing; I wish I had known that the first few times I’ve played.

It would’ve been nice to learn that basic knowledge online before playing in real cardrooms. Then at least you can be confident with your basic playing ability. So I think online poker is great for women in that aspect.

Clonie Gowan discusses life and poker

Clonie Gowan discusses life and poker

OPC: In live games, do you have a better read on men or women?

Clonie: Men and women may approach the game differently, but it really depends on the individual player. Some players I am able to pick up more things from, but sometimes the gender makes no difference.

OPC: While on the tour, did you ever feel excluded because you are a woman?

Clonie: In the beginning there were no stars. There were great players and stuff, but it is not like it is now.

To be a successful player, you need a lot of confidence. You must have the “it is really all about me” mentality, and that’s how most poker players are.

(Clonie draws a little circle in the air with her index finger and smiles.) I live in this little circle here, so I never really felt excluded.

Well, wait, I guess I did feel excluded in a small way. Back when I didn’t have a bankroll, traveling to the tournaments. The guys can all share rooms and cut their expenses. But as a woman you don’t have any other woman to share with, so you bear all the costs. I wished there were more female players at that time, so we can travel together, and share expenses.

Of course, there would’ve been many guys who would’ve been willing…. But that’s a whole other ball game and you never want to go there. Because you never respect the other player after you go out with them.

OPC: So there isn’t a lot of dating among poker pros?

Clonie: Oh no, you see a lot of it. It’s just that for me, personally, I never have.

OPC: You never dated a poker player? Is that because of a personal experience or was it a firm rule for you from the start?

Clonie: Hmmmm no. It was a firm rule from the start. I know poker players are selfish. They want to play poker all the time. Well, I’m just like that, so I don’t want anybody like me. I’m pretty hard to put up with and I’m pretty sure they would be hard to put up with as well, and us together would never mix. That’s why I never dated a poker player.

But I have very good friends. Chris Ferguson, Robert Williamson, the whole Full Tilt team. They’re great guys, but would I want to date them? No. They are poker players and I know their mindset.

OPC: A lot of magazines are promoting the “poker lifestyle.” We see ads with poker players traveling on private jets, smoking Cuban cigars, drinking single-malt scotch, is that the image?

Clonie: That is the image. For your high-stakes players that is absolutely the image. Let me tell you a story.

I went to the Super Bowl with Robert Williamson last year. We went to the hottest club in Houston; there was a line of 300 people. He walks up, gives the door guy $5,000 and got us all in. That’s the lifestyle. Anything you want, anytime you want.

OPC: Are there any downsides to the poker lifestyle?

Clonie: It is a lot of traveling. It is lonely. I have a house here in Vegas. So during tournaments I stay at my house as opposed to just staying here at the Rio. I don’t want to be part of this atmosphere everyday during the World Series.

OPC: What do you think is the secret of your success?

Clonie: I love poker and I’m very competitive. Anytime you’re doing something you enjoy, you will do your best. But I’m still learning everyday, still improving.

OPC: What is your favorite book?

Clonie: I love Barry Greenstein’s new book, I found it very interesting. In the introduction he dedicates the book to his children, and the children of other poker players. And that introduction right there will tell you what type of person he is. It brought tears to my eyes, it was absolutely incredible.

OPC: What is your favorite movie?

Clonie: Molly Brown.

OPC: Do you identify with her? A strong, independent woman from a small town?

Clonie: Yeah, a strong independent woman with great values. Do you know her story very well?

OPC: Just what I saw on that movie Titanic, I’m afraid.

Clonie: That movie made her famous, but there is more to her story. She was very backwoods woman, but she was determined to get out of that life. So she moved several hundred miles away, which at the time, for a woman to travel so far by herself, was unusual.

The only job she could find was as a pianist at a bar, but she doesn’t know how to play the piano. So she faked it. She faked it till she made it. She eventually married a very wealthy man. And she had some problems fitting into the high society in America, because she was so different, so loud and boisterous. American society didn’t accept her, even though she had so much money.

When she went to Europe, the kings, queens and diplomats found her refreshing, because she was very honest and open. So she actually brought some European society people back to Philadelphia, where they snubbed the people who snubbed Molly.

OPC: Can you tell us a little bit about your favorite charity?

Clonie: I work with the National Ovarian Cancer Coaliation. It is a silent killer, you usually don’t know you have it until you’re going to die. My mom is a survivor of ovarian cancer; she’s still battling cancer. So it’s a very important charity to me. I do all I can.

OPC: If you are not a poker player, what would be your alternative career?

Clonie: (Laughs) Is there anything other than poker?

Play Poker Like the Pros

Play Poker Like the Pros book coverDespite its misleading title, Play Poker Like the Pros does not actually reveal any professional poker secrets. Written in a conversational style, Play Poker Like the Pros merely provides an interesting, but incomplete, introduction to Limit Texas Hold’em.

This book has one core message: Only play premium hands and play those hands aggressively. This is good advice for all novice players. But such advice is standard mantra among all poker strategy books; in fact, you can probably find the exact same information surfing the web or watching Celebrity Poker Showdown.

What sets Play Poker Like the Pros apart from other poker books is its readability. Phil Hellmuth illustrates his points with simple examples, and never overwhelms his readers with needless jargon. While other poker books read like technical manuals, Play Poker Like the Pros is filled with humor and interesting tidbits about the professional poker tour.

If you are looking for a easy and fun introduction to Limit Hold’em, this book is perfect. But if you are serious about improving your game, Play Poker Like the Prosis not for you.

Hellmuth tends to oversimplify his material, which can undermine a beginner’s development in the long run. For example, Hellmuth frequently glosses over fundamental poker concepts such as implied pot odds, semi-bluffing, and bankroll management. Instead of explaining these important concepts, Hellmuth fudges with statements like “the best way is to play by feel.”

Play Poker Like the Pros: Hellmuth’s Strategy in a Nutshell

The “play by feel” suggestion comes up a lot because Hellmuth does not offer a lot of concrete strategies. Hellmuth’s strategy can be easily summarized in a few paragraphs:

  1. Categorize your opponents based on their betting tendencies. Hellmuth identifies four main types of players:
    • The jackal – an extremely aggressive and unpredictable player.
    • The elephant – a loose player who will call many bets with weak hands.
    • The mouse – a timid player who only plays premium hands.
    • The lion – a tight player who bets aggressively with good hands.
  2. Only play the top ten starting hands: AA, KK, QQ, AK, JJ, TT, 99, 88, AQ, 77.
  3. Before the flop, play your hands aggressively. Raise and reraise whenever possible.
  4. After the flop comes, raise if you believe your hand is the strongest. Even if the flop did not improve your hand, you should raise anyway, just to test how strong your opponents are.
  5. On fourth street, bet again if you think you have a good hand. However, if a tight player (mouse) reraised on the flop and reraised again on fourth street, you should consider folding.
  6. You should almost always call on the river. The only exception is when there are two or more opponents left, and one opponent raises while the other calls or reraises. It is a good idea to fold in this situation, for you are most certainly beat, regardless of pot odds.

That is all the strategic advice you will get with Hellmuth’s book. If you want more advanced strategies, I recommend Matthew Hilger’s Internet Texas Hold’em and David Sklansky’s The Theory of Poker. These two other books might be harder to read, but they are required reading if you truly want to play poker like a pro.

Note: According to the book’s back jacket, Play Poker Like the Pros also offers winning strategies for No Limit Hold’em, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud, and Razz. However, half of the book is clearly dedicated to Limit Hold’em strategies. The other poker variations–each complex enough to warrant their own books–receives just bare-bone introductions.

Click here to buy now

Plastic vs Paper Playing Cards

Four AcesAs the poker craze sweeps the nation, weekly home games are popping up everywhere.

What’s more, these home poker game have become quite sophisticated: custom poker tables have replaced the kitchen table, composite clay chips improve on nickels and dimes, and plastic playing cards mimic that casino feel.

If you are looking to elevate your weekly home game, using plastic playing cards is a good and relatively inexpensive way to start. Not only do plastic playing cards enhance the playing experience, they are actually more cost effective than using regular paper playing cards!

While paper cards do an adequate job, they are easily soiled by dirty fingers, can be creased or bent, and last for only a night or two.

Plastic cards, on the other hand, are much more durable, are easily cleaned, retain their shape better, and are harder to mark or crease.

Ranging from $4 to $12 per pack, plastic cards are not cheap. However, because they last much longer than paper cards, plastic cards actually cost less per game.

Why are plastic cards better?

Paper playing cards are available everywhere from toy stores to the corner grocer. Bicycle, Bee, Tally-ho and Aviator are some of the popular brands. They are coated with a thin plastic layer, and cost around $2.

Paper cards are usable for only one or two nights. You can play with them for weeks if you like that gritty backroom poker game feel, but for that casino touch, plastic cards are the way to go. Plastics are much more durable, remain flat longer and are washable.

Plastic cards hold their shape

Plastic cards are composed of plastics-like cellulose acetate or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Because they’re 100% plastic, rather than plastic coated, these cards are much more durable than their paper cousins. They are harder to crease, bend or mark. In contrast, a player can easily mark a corner of paper cards to gain an edge over everyone else at the table.

Paper cards are infamous for not holding their shape — whether from a thousand shuffles (they start to “bow” upwards) or from players lifting up a corner to read their hole cards. Plastic cards, in comparison, are easier to bend (not as stiff as paper cards) and maintain their flatness better.

Plastic cards stay cleaner, longer

If your home game is like mine, then there is often a drink spillage incident during the course of the night. Unfortunately, paper cards must be discarded after they get wet.

On the other hand, a quick wipe of a towel and the plastic cards are good as new.

Even without any spilled drinks, plastic cards can be returned to their sealed box glory with some cold water and a damp sponge. Imagine playing every game with clean and shiny cards.

For convenience sake, paper playing cards can’t be beat. Need a deck? Just run to the nearest supermarket or ask your flight attendant for a deck. But if you want a cards that will last 2-3 years of weekly use, then you’re looking for a quality deck of plastic cards.