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Is Probability a Factor to Consider When Playing Poker?

Author: Neha Agrawal

The question of whether or not probability is really a big factor when playing poker is thrown around a lot in the poker world. How could one put subtly? One can’t put it subtly. In fact, it cannot be stressed enough just how important a player’s grasp and understanding of probability is when they play poker. Oh certainly, poker is a game of chance and even with absolutely no knowledge of probability whatsoever, a player might happen across a winning hand. There has never been any denying this, and it could happen at any time. However, if a player is to maximise their chances of holding a better hand than their opposing players, a good understanding of probability is required, in order to be able to read the cards that they are holding.

For example, if a player is holding a pair of tens then with a rudimentary knowledge of basic poker probability, said player can ascertain what are the chances that his pair of tens could become a three of a kind, full house, or perhaps even a four of a kind? Of course, there is much more to it than this, but you understand the premise at least.

If a quick look were to be taken at the probability of drawing all of the ranking hands in a five card poker game, the outcome would be as follows. The chances of bagging a royal flush, the highest ranked hand, are approximately 0.000154%, which equates to a one in 649,739 chance. This not very likely at all, however at the opposite end of the table, the chances of pulling off a pair are roughly 42.3%, with a one in 1.36 chance of success. In the middle of the probability table, a three of kind has a probability of 2.11%, or a one in 46.3 chance of success.

Of course there probabilities are simply for picking up one of the ranking hands, in your first five cards. The probability that you will be able to turn your initial five cards into something more magical will depend entirely on what five cards you were initially dealt. This probability is almost impossible for you to know; however you can certainly make a good assumption on how likely you are to pull it off.

Whilst it is of paramount importance that you understand that poker is a game of chance, you certainly won’t be doing your chances any harm whatsoever by fully understanding how probability works and how it can impact the decisions you make in a hand, or indeed a game of poker.