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Poker Math Shortcuts: Use Rule of 4 & 2 for Pot Odds

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It's true that a lot of math experts do very well at Texas Hold'em poker. And some of you probably think you need to be a math whiz to regularly figure out pot odds in Hold'em.

You don't.

By using a simple formula developed by former poker pro Phil Gordon, you can easily estimate your pot odds every hand.

The Rule of 4 and 2

The first step in determining your pot odds to make a call on any street is determining the odds of hitting your hand.

This can be easily estimated by using the Rule of 4 and 2. It was devised by former poker pro and WPT champion Phil Gordon in his famous Little Green Book.

First, you count the number of outs you need to hit your hand. So let's say you have an open-ended straight draw (cards that will fill up a straight on either side). In this case you have eight outs to hit your hand.

Next, you figure out your odds depending on what street you're on. If you're on the flop you will multiply your outs by 4. So in our example you have a 32% chance to hit your hand.

If you're on the turn, you only multiply by 2. In our above example you have then 16% to hit your hand on the river.

Putting the Rule of 4 and 2 to Use

Sp let's assume the above situation and look at the pot size to see if we have the pot odds to call. On the flop the pot started at $25 and your opponent bet $10.

The pot is now $35 and you need to call $10 to continue. If you call the pot will be $45. Your $10 will represent 22% of that pot.

Look back at the rule of 4 and 2; you'll remember that on the flop you have a 32% chance to hit your hand. Based on that math you have the pot odds to make the call.

Now let's look at the turn. If the same scenario were to happen on the turn, you only have a 16% chance to hit your hand. On the turn you don't have the pot odds to call.

2016 WSOP Phil Ivey 3

The Difference in Calculations Not Worth Worrying About

Some statistical geniuses will point out that the rule of 4 and 2 is not "exact" when figuring out calculation. While this is true, the majority of the time the differences are so small that it doesn't matter.

In the above example we said that you had a 32% chance of hitting your hand with the Rule of 4 and 2. The actual statistic is 31.5%. That's a .05 percent difference. 

On the turn your odds are actually a bit better than the rule of 4 and 2, but we are talking a difference of .07 to 2.6% max.  As you can clearly see, the differences are not significant enough to concern yourself over.

The Rule of 4 and 2 is an excellent tool that the average player can use to quickly figure out pot odds in their head. Try it the next time you play poker. Practice the numbers in your head when watching other hands. 

This tool will help you pick up more pots when you're ahead and save you money by getting you to fold hands where you don't have the odds to call.