Do pre-flop odds in poker just make you want to fold a lot? You wouldn’t be the only one, with poker players generally preferring to talk about their reads rather than their arithmetic in these situations. However, with PokerStove you’re able to use the tool to explore situations and pre-flop odds without it costing you an arm and a leg. It’s one of the essential pieces of software, and you really ought to have it installed already!
Simply put, PokerStove is a free piece of software that allows you to calculate Texas Hold’em poker starting hands odds. Punch the hands in for the respective players and PokerStove will quickly evaluate the pre-flop odds, showing you whether your hand is a favorite or not.
It’s all rather simple; simply select the cards each player has, any of the community cards you might know, and any cards you happen to know are “dead cards” (perhaps the dealer accidentally exposed the burn card in your local game). From there, PokerStove crunches the numbers and gives you its verdict. If you’d rather input a percentage of the starting hands (for example, the top 10 percent), you’ll also be able to see which hands those are, as well as just how hard they crush the likes of 7-2 off-suit.
In a bygone era, poker players had to learn the hard way. Think back to the time of Doyle Brunson, Jack Strauss and the road gamblers. They had to play for years before they got a true feel for situations. Brunson describes how, as a young man, he would study hundreds of theoretical situations by simply shuffling through a deck and playing them out in front of himself.
PokerStove is the extension of Brunson’s exercise. You can plug hands in incredibly quickly and save them up to a pokerstove.txt log file if you want to reexamine the math afterwards. Given 15 to 30 minutes on PokerStove, you can get a full understanding of your over-pair against the nut flush draw, or the chances of hitting your set against top two. It basically allows you to explore situations and match-up situations which, without software, would take months if not years to come about.
PokerStove is a fairly simple piece of kit, but the fact you can’t plug extensions into it shouldn’t trick you into thinking it’s a shallow tool. It’s the simple things which really make PokerStove purr, such as the “Random” button, for example, which saves you time inputting a villain’s actual hand. The Output section is all you need, too, providing info on equity, win and tie probability, pots won and pots tied on a hand-by-hand basis, as well as showing you how long it took to get to its conclusion.
Ultimately, taking in all of the information PokerStove has to offer will lead you to putting your money over the line in more profitable situations in the long run. The one issue some people might find with PokerStove is finding it on the internet. We know, it sounds crazy, but the home of PokerStove has moved a few times in its virtual life.
For the most up to date version at the time of writing, click here: Get PokerStove Free
This Poker Stove article discusses intermediate-level concepts that require knowledge about equity and how hand ranges work. The last part is about finding out the frequency of certain hands of your opponent.
PokerStove is a program for calculating hot-and-cold equity. Essentially, it calculates your exact chance of winning a certain hand at showdown. For instance, you can plug in 72o vs. AA and discover that 72o only has an 11.8% chance of winning if all the cards are dealt and neither of the two players fold. It's a program that you download and run directly on your computer, as opposed to online odds calculators. Running a program locally on your computer will mean that it works a lot faster.
So what do you use it for?
Well, PokerStove is a very useful tool for analyzing hands and situations away from the tables. For instance, if UTG raises in a 6-max limit ring game, and I call from the BB with JsTs.
How am I doing on a Jh-7s-7d flop if my opponent is:
a) squeaky tight (raises 3% of hands UTG)
b) average (raises 10% of hands UTG)
c) loose/aggressive (raises 20% of hands UTG), or
d) maniac (raises at least 50% of his hands UTG)
I can plug these ranges, my exact hand, and this exact flop into PokerStove. It will then find out that my chance of winning vs. each respective opponent is:
Is this useful?
Yes, very! Knowing your hot-and-cold equity is a great first step in being able to figure out the best course of action. Whether you should call or raise the flop can be debated, but we've at the very least established that you're doing well enough that you shouldn't fold, at least not on the flop.
Now open up PokerStove. If you haven't already, download it from here: PokerStove Free.
We're going to perform some simple experiments to get us started.
The first thing we want to do is pit a few pre-flop hands against some ranges. To do that, we're going to first see how ranges - or "Hand Distributions" - work in PokerStove.
There are a few different ways of setting your opponent's range, the easiest one is to just type in a percentage*. For example, if you know from PokerTracker that your opponent raises preflop with 10% of his hands in this position, you put that 10% in. As soon as you press the Tab-button, PokerStove will convert that to a range. Try it!
Putting in 10% PokerStove has now converted 10% to a range. 10% is synonymous to putting "77+,A9s+,KTs+,QTs+,AJo+,KQo" in the same field. "77+" means any pocket pair 77 and higher. "KTs+" means any suited king, with a ten or better kicker. Try putting in some different percentages (don't forget to add the '%') and see what ranges they correspond to.
Of course, we can also put in a string like that ourselves if we want. Try altering the string that PokerStove produces when you put in 10%, and see what works. You will notice that if you make a string that PokerStove doesn't know how to read (like putting in "Fredrik") the background is going to turn maroon, signifying that there's an error in the input.
Now we move to the next control, the Board-input. Here, we can tell PokerStove what the board looks like. Since it's somewhat pointless to speak of "ranges" on the board, we put in what the board actually looks like. Sometimes we can ignore what suits are on the table, but it's usually best make the board as exact as possible. You also don't have to enter all the cards on the board. You can solely use the flop, or even just one or two cards. PokerStove will generate random scenarios for any and all cards that you don't explicitly put in.
As with the Hand Distribution input fields, the Board background will turn maroon if there is an error.
You may also click on the "Select" button next to the Board input field to click on the specific cards. This way, you don't have to worry about typos getting in your way.
In theory, you can use this if someone who folded tells you their hand or if someone accidently flashes their cards. In practice - and especially online - this is not a very useful feature.
What PokerStove does is run simulations. It doesn't calculate, it simulates. So when you run the software, it will pit the hands and ranges you entered, on the board that you put in (if any), randomize all the unknown variables many times, and tell you how often on average the different players win. There are two ways it can do this:
"Enumerate all" goes through every possible combination. For some scenarios this is very fast since there are few possible combinations. Most cases when only two players are involved doesn't take Poker Stove many fractions of a second to calculate. When you have three or more players involved in a pot, the number of possible cases grows exponentially, and it may take a long time for the program to run every single combination of possibilities. That's when using "Monte Carlo" comes in handy - it randomizes the simulations.
This means that instead of following a pattern and grinding its way through every possible holding, it will randomly run simulation after simulation. As computers are so fast these days, we're going to get a huge number of samples (millions) in around 1 second. It's true that we've substituted precision for speed, but if you let Monte Carlo run for a while it will quickly stabilize towards the true value.
So let's put in some ranges and boards and see what happens.
For instance, if you have a nut flush draw with A9s and your opponent has one of the top 10% range (let's say he raised under-the-gun and you called from the big blind). How big is your chance of winning if the board is paired, versus if it's not paired? I seem to remember hearing that we must be careful with flushes on paired boards. So let's put in the following values:
A9s is 45.508% to win. What happens if one of the kings was a queen instead? Change the board to "KhQd4h" and run "enumerate all" again. See what happened?
Was it what you expected?
One more example: How about JJ vs. a player whose range is confined to pocket pairs and AKs? Try it! What happens if you add AK to his range? What happens if you remove some of the bottom pocket pairs? Play around, and evaluate!
By now you may have noticed that you can click on "Player 1," "Player 2" etc. But if you haven't, go ahead now and click on "Player 1" to the left.
In this new window, you have two different tabs. The first one, "Cards," lets you select two specific cards for the player. If you dislike keyboards or feel more comfortable picking them from a list, this is where you do it. You can only pick two cards in this first tab.
If you want to select a specific range, you can switch to the "Pre-flop" tab in Poker Stove. This tab, unlike the last one, is extremely useful for everyone. It lets you do two things: It lets you easily input specific ranges, and it lets you play with the slider and see more specifically which hands get included as you increase someone's range.
So you have someone at your table who plays half of his hands. Have you ever seen just how wide 50% of all hands is? Go ahead and draw the slider slowly to the right until you reach about 50%.
Click the “Clear” button to erase the existing data. Now you can select specific starting hands to add to your opponent's range.
Try clicking a few. See how the percentage counter to the right of the slider changes?
The cards included in your selected range are marked yellow, plus the specific hand that you've currently selected is purple. To de-select a yellow hand, click it again. If you want to undo your current selection, press "shift" and click it again. This will make it yellow. Now release shift and click on the hand one more time to remove it from your selected range.
Now, we want to try two more tricks to add hands to your range:
1. Hold down the Alt-key and press any hand. See what happened? This is the same as taking that hand - let's say it's 84o - and adding the "+" in the input field, e.g. 84o+. This means any 8 with an offsuit kicker better than 4 (but lower than 8), i.e. 84o, 85o, 86o and 87o. Everything above the diagonal that’s marked in maroon, are suited hands, and everything below it are unsuited. Since 85o and 85s are different types of hands, you will find that alt-clicking on these hands will lead them up to the diagonal, but won't include their corresponding suited/unsuited respective.
2. If I raise, he calls and he checkraises an A-8-2 flop - which he would with any pair - how good are my pocket kings likely to be?
Does the result surprise you?
A cool trick with PokerStove is finding out the likelihood of a certain type of hand.
This is done by putting in your opponent's standard range, and from there select your own cards in a way that makes your hand just one step weaker than the hand you're interested in. Sound complicated? Let's look at an example.
Let's say that you want to know how often your opponent is drawing to a flush, if his range is 30% of all hands, and the flop is 3h-Ts-Kh. Input your opponent's range, and that board into Stove. Then invent a turn and a river that would give him a flush, but give yourself the second best hand. "Second best hand" depends on the board but it should be either a straight (and then it should be the nut straight) or top set. For example:
Here, I've given myself QJ, which would make the nut straight, and then filled the board in a way that the only way my opponent can beat me is if he has a flush. Be careful that you don't accidently make some other hand the nut, other than the one you want to check if he's drawing to. In the example I used above, be careful not to pair the board!
When you're using this technique, be careful not to "waste" too many of your opponent's outs in the process of filling out the board; it will skew the results. With flushdraws and such, it doesn't affect the outcome very much, but it will definitely have an impact on draws with few outs.
If you want to know how often your opponent holds specifically AA, it's prudent to use a board that doesn't otherwise interfere with his holdings. For instance, removing all hands that contain deuces, and also specifically 3-3 from his range (which shouldn't change the percentages much) allows you to compose a board of 2-2-2-3-3 and then give yourself KK, and then run the simulation. If you have KK on a 2-2-2-3-3 board if he has no deuce and not 3-3, it's only specifically AA that can beat you.
One final example:
How often does my opponent have two-pair or better on a Kh-9d-5d flop? This is trickier than it might look, since you need to dodge the possibility of him "improving" when you add your dummy turn and river cards. This is somewhat similar to the trick of checking for AA, in that you remove cards from your opponent's range to make the simulation work. On a K-9-5 flop, you could again remove all hands containing deuces and treys (which should rarely be a big part of an opponent's range anyway), then make the turn and river be a deuce and a trey. Then, give yourself TPTK, and run the simulation.
Watch out for possible straights and flushes, though!
In closing, this "trick" with PokerStove is very powerful in that you can start building an idea of how likely a flushdraw given a certain starting range is. One of the things you may notice if you start playing around is that given a tight starting range, a flushdraw is only about half as likely on a broadway flop as it is on a rag flop! The reason for this is that if your opponent is tight, he's likely to play only the big suited cards. If there's an A/K/Q of two suits on the flop, that leaves a much smaller range of his suited connectors available.
It really is a wonderful tool. It's common human error to think that our power of estimation is good, when in fact it often sucks. We look at a situation and we try to gauge how likely we are to win and often we're wrong.
One way to sharpen how well we estimate these things is to use PokerStove to get a feeling for different situations.
In terms of hand analysis, especially in a poker forum like CardsChat or others, being able to reduce a certain problem to just a matter of what we think our opponent's range is, is invaluable. Advice is often given by people who guess what the villain in the hand has, and then guesses what our chances of winning are, and then guesses what the best course of action is. Since the margin of error grows exponentially with every new operation that has an innate error, doing three operations with large margins of error means that the end result probably isn't too reliable.
Being able to reduce the margin of error for some of these operations is awesome. Being able to almost completely remove it is spectacular. If I know my opponent will push - and always push - with AA, KK, QQ, AKs/AKo and JJ after being re-raised preflop, I can run the numbers into PokerStove and get the correct answer for what to do. No more guessing.
It's very rare (I think it's happened twice) that I've used Poker Stove while playing to solve a hand that I'm currently on the clock in. In other words, I use it exclusively for offline analysis and study. I often look something up and find that I'm surprised by the outcome. Every time that happens, I've become a stronger player as I am now armed with a new piece of information. I expect that it will be quite a while before I stop being surprised by outcomes in PokerStove, despite having worked with it quite a lot in the last year.
There's no doubt in my mind that it's one of the best tools available for learning to play solid poker. The only thing you need to have in order to run it is a PC, some spare time and a healthy dose of curiosity. Then start running simulations. How good IS jack-ten suited versus AA? What if you flop a pair? If your opponent defends his big blind 40% of the time, how bad shape are you in if he calls when you raise on the button with J5s?
Play around. Discover new things - become a stronger player.
* Whenever you're thinking about percentages, you should be careful so as to not confuse yourself. The percentage that you're inputting is the top number of hand combinations. For instance, if PokerStove tells you your opponent will raise pre-flop 10% of the time, that's the percentage you should enter. The difference is that there are 169 different starting hands in Hold 'em, but someone who raises pre-flop 10% of the time, isn't raising pre-flop with only the 17 best starting hands. Suited connectors such as AKs and pocket pairs are more rare combinations than offsuit hands like AJo, taking the 17 best starting hands would actually only constitute about 7.5%. For most applications, this is not that useful to keep track of, but it is worth being aware of.