I always knew that poker was a game of maths. I studied maths in college (way back) and my only regret is that the teachers didn't apply it so something useful, like poker.

I downloaded the elephant-thingy and can see that I've been playing "very loose" pre-flop. I had thought I was doing my maths right, but clearly not. I'm also still losing more than I'm winning but did have a couple of nice wins that I'm happy about. I'm still on my free $50 which I'm happy about as that means I must be doing something right.

Determined to start winning I've focused a bit more on the maths. Here's my take so far.

ODDS

Odds are essentially the likelihood of achieving a certain outcome by combining my dealt hole cards with the community cards. The more cards that could make a really strong hand, the better my odds.

The odds are worked out as the ratio between the number of unhelpful cards to the number of cards that could help complete my hand. After the flop I've seen 5 cards. There are 47 cards left. Let's say that my two hole cards are hearts and two of the community cards are hearts. There are nine possible cards that could give me a flushdraw. So the ratio of unhelpful to helpful is 38:9 (which works out at around 4:1)

This means that for every five hands played, my desired card will show up once, and an unhelpful card will show up four times.

The chart over at

BSS maths article is particularly useful as it saves a little time in having to do the maths yourself.

POT ODDS

If I had 4:1 odds on a hand I'd probably play it. Right? Well, the next thing that needs to be considered in conjunction with the odds, is the cost of staying in the hand. If there is $10 in the pot and the cost of staying in is $3 then I might need to think about it. I stand to win $10 only once in every five hands. So for every five hands played I will lose four $3's ($12) and make one $10. I'm going to be a net loser here.

The ratio for pot odds is Amount to be Won:Cost of Staying in Hand. In this instance it is 10:3 or about 3:1.

In order to stay in the hand my pot odds should be greater than the odds against me. Pot odds of 3:1 is worse than 4:1 so I fold on this occasion.

DISCOUNTED OUTS

So far we've only being thinking about the cards that are helpful to me (my 'outs') in completing my hand. However it is clear that some of the cards that could help me could also help my opponents. Depending on the community cards dealt the same cards that could help make my flush could also help complete someone else's hand.

This is where it gets tricky. I need to be able to read my opponent's play so far to see if there is a chance that this could be the case. This is why it is better to be later in the hand when playing because you have all the information possible to help make a good decision.

Because I don't actually know his cards, I have to make assumptions about what he could have based on his behaviour. He could always be bluffing, but I've learnt already that it's not worth trying to flush out a bluffer, annoying and all as it may be.

When presented with community cards; I need to discount cards that would not give me a truly stronger hand than I assume my opponent could have. What are the cards that could help complete a hand that is stronger than mine? Take this number away from the total number of helpful cards in order to adjust the odds - discounted odds.

Right, that's enough maths for one day...