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A Data Nerd’s Guide To Winning Texas Hold ‘Em

Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em.

Do you suck at the mental math of Texas Hold ‘Em? Here’s an interactive cheat sheet that you might want to play around with before your next game. Chris Beaumont, a former software engineer at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics, has put together a series of matrices, allowing you to better figure out when you should hold ’em and when you should fold ’em, even before the first flop.

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According to Beaumont, what makes Texas Hold ‘Em such a fascinating game from a probability perspective is that, with over 1.3 trillion possible hands between just two players, the only way to visualize the odds of any given hand winning is as a 4-D hypercube. On his page, Beaumont cuts this hypercube into 2-D matrices that show hand frequencies, average hand strength, weighted strength, and more.

For most players, the part of the visualization they’ll be immediately drawn towards will probably be the interactive grid that allows you to see at a glance how strong the first two cards you are dealt are compared to all other possible combos. For example, if the first two cards you are dealt with are a 10 and a 9 of hearts, that’s statistically worth seeing the flop, but if that 9 of hearts was a spade instead, you pretty much just have junk and should fold.

Overall, though, the best part of Beaumont’s visualization is the last grid, showing weighted hand strength. Although it’s not interactive—you’ll need to explore the matrix by mousing over different possible hands—it’s a more useful tool in the sense that it shows you how likely any given hand is to win in a Texas Hold ‘Em showdown, provided that the person you’re playing with isn’t a total idiot, and has therefore folded if he was dealt complete junk. It’s like years of Texas Hold ‘Em experience, visualized in a single grid.

Truthfully, this is more Texas Hold ‘Em for data nerds than anything else. If you just want to play a better game, there’s simpler charts that can help you more. But if you’re a viz lover who likes a good hand of poker now and then, this is total porn.

Check out the full interactive visualization here.

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