Can Odds be Beat?

Just now, as I was enjoying the book Stewball by Peter Bowen, I enjoyed this description of one of the characters–a man people in the novel like to play poker with.

“Numbers…was not his strong suit. He thought the odds was somethin’ you could beat. It is a fairly common and always fatal belief.”

Any thoughts or any other poker thoughts to share?


Some people play it safe and some play against the odds.

Every day you weigh up the risks of doing something against the benefits or odds. It can vary from:

“Do I walk across this dance floor and ask that girl to dance?”

Risk: Humiliation! Reward: She might say yes!

Or, “Do I cross this road?”

Risk: Being hit by a car. Reward: Getting to the other side. And so on.

Poker is very much a probability-based game and so playing a strategy that follows correct poker probabilities (or odds) will increase your chances of success.


Odds can always be beat in a short run and some times in a moderate length run, but it is very rare to beat the odds if the run is long enough. I have had bad runs that lasted months before they evened out. My bad runs tend to last longer than my good runs, partly due to my questionable play. LOL

Odds are just probabilities not absolutes. If they were absolutes play would be much more predictable. Since odds can be beat for short runs, the game attracts many weaker players who hope to get lucky on any given hand or any given tournament.

When someone goes all in hoping for an inside straight and hits it, that is beating the odds. People I play against seem to do that all too frequently. LOL


Can odds be beat? That’s a good question.

It begs another: Odds of what?

I typically attempt a quick odds ratio estimate when I’m considering calling, betting, or folding. If my cards are suited, and after the flop I have four cards to a flush, I know that somewhat less than half the time, I will be blessed with a fifth suited card on the turn or river.

How much will it cost to stay in the game, or to raise? And how likely is it that I will win? How much am I likely to win if I do?

An added challenge is that it’s hard to know how big the pot will go. If I drill an ace high flush on the turn, I can bet for value, potentially even going all in. This means I might double up or better.

In no limit hold’em, most of the winnings (or losses) occur in a small percentage of high-stakes hands. Sometimes, betting “against the odds” will give you an opportunity to improve, and if you do, you might find yourself well-placed to win a Big Hand.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, with poker, we are dancing with the odds.

The other example that we all know is that betting can actively change the odds I face if I drive one or more of my opponents to fold. We can even estimate the probability that an opponent will fold based upon A) the likelihood of them having a good hand, and B) what I know of their temperament.

So, the better one understands probabilities, the better a poker player one will be. But understanding how probabilities can shift is also important.

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I so appreciate your thoughtful response and I have learned from it. I love the metaphor of “dancing with the odds.” Thanks, Cleo999.

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Not over a large enough sample size.

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The short answer is that no the odds cant be beat. We just have an expectation of what we can theoretically win in the long run.