Texas Holdem – How counting cards work

Texas Holdem – How counting cards work

Counting cards poker is a controversial strategy that is particularly useful for beginners looking for guidance. Here you calculate probabilities in the game. Counting cards poker is an additional strategy that can be used while playing poker and that can be great fun. Let’s have a look on how to count cards.


Look at poker cards systematically

It’s always about finding probabilities. So, probability calculation is the basis of counting cards poker. Knowing the likelihood of a card being played will help you better evaluate and target your hand.


Counting card methods in Poker

The method of counting cards can be used in poker. The general concept is we want to keep track of which cards are staying in the deck so we can gauge our chances of making a winning hand with the later cards. The first important skill is to be aware of the exact number of cards that can help us.


The point is to determine how likely it is that you will get a very strong hand with your hand. To do this, it is important to determine how many cards from the deck could help you, the so-called outs.


Let’s say you hold 8 J while the board has K 3 8 . With another 8 you would have three of a kind and with a jack, you would have two pairs. Since there are already two eights and one jack face up, there are still 2 eights and 3 jacks that could help you get a strong hand.


A poker deck consists of 52 cards. Minus the 5 open cards, there are still 47 cards that are invisible to us. So, the probability that we come across a card that is beneficial for us is 5:47 or 1: 9.4. In other words, the card we need only comes in one out of 9 cases.


The second factor to consider when counting cards poker is the odds. These indicate how high your stake is in relation to the pot. The rule of thumb is: “Use your chips only in relation to your probability of winning”. In other words, if the pot has a value of 90 and you had to bet 10 to stay in it, this would be close to the limit in our example, but still acceptable.


In principle, counting cards poker can provide a good orientation for your betting behavior. However, you should never rely on mathematics alone, always think logically and, above all, read your opponents. Odds and outs are just one of the many poker strategies.


Calculating the pot equity

If we know the number of our outs, we can infer an important piece of information: We can determine how much equity we have in the pot. Equity is an original way of expressing how likely it is that we can form our hand and hopefully take the pot. We can use a simple rule to calculate our equity. “The times 2 and times 4 rule” or “The rule of 4 and 2”.


This rule only works on the flop and the turn, so don’t try to use it preflop or on the river when no more cards are coming.

  • On the flop: multiply the number of outs by 4 to find the pot equity
  • On the turn: Multiply the number of outs by 2 to calculate the pot equity


So, let’s go back to our previous example where we held the flush draw to learn how to count cards in poker. There we found that we had about 12 outs.


We can estimate our pot equity by multiplying the number of our outs (12) by 4 because we are on the flop. This means that we have nearly a 48% chance of getting our ace or flush by the river. Note that this is an estimate. The actual poker calculation is a little more complicated. During a hand, however, we don’t want to spend time trying to get the exact value. The times 2 and 4 rules (the rule of 4 and 2) should be precise enough to help you make excellent decisions at the table.



If you don’t like math, you can skip this section. But for those who are interested: How exactly does the times 2 and times 4 counting cards poker rule (the rule of 4 and 2) work?


Let’s imagine that we are on the turn and have 9 outs. The deck still contains 46 unknown cards. This means that the hit probability is 9/46. If we assume that the deck contains 50 cards instead of 46, we can simplify this probability to 9/50, which is the same as 18/100 or 18%.


However, the true value of 9/46, expressed as a percentage, is 19.5%, not 18%. So, we have to multiply the number of our outs by 2.174, but who can find the time to do that while a hand is in play? We much prefer to use simple numbers to determine a suitable estimate.


If the concept of how to count cards in poker is new to us, it will be a while before we can successfully implement it. The next step on this particular learning curve is to think about how our pot equity relates to our pot odds. Sometimes we can afford relatively low pot equity when we have excellent pot odds. Assuming we don’t have any particular pot odds (perhaps our opponent is betting high), we generally need higher pot equity to justify going ahead. If some things seem difficult at first, don’t worry. You will understand how to count cards in poker and apply it overtime … counting cards poker is something you can count on!

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