The Rule of Four and Two – Calculating Your Chance to Win

For serious poker players, the game is a lot more complicated than just knowing the best hand. If you play poker professionally, then you will find yourself more concerned with numbers, statistics, and probability than anything else.  Because there are so many variables in any given hand, it can be difficult sometimes to figure out the odds of that hand, regarding how likely it will be that you will win. Trying to determine your percentages can be a real pain unless you know the Rule of Four and Two. (Note: this rule can sometimes be referred to as the rule of two and four or the 2/4 rule. Each means the same thing.)

Thankfully, because poker attracts people who are more adept at math than most of us, we can utilize this rule as a shorthand for knowing the percentage odds of winning any particular hand. While the rule itself is simple, implementing it can be a little tricky at times. Thus, we will show you how it works, when to use it, and give you some examples to test your new skills.

What is the Rule of 4 of 2?

Rule of Four and Two

The origins of this rule come from [amazon text=The Little Green Book&asin=1416903674], which discusses variations and strategies for No-Limit Texas Hold Em. With that in mind, the Rule of Four and Two only applies to that game and no others. Thus, if you are a Stud player, then you won’t get much out of this.  Not sure what Hold’em is? Check here.

For those of you who do love to play Hold Em, however, this is the way it works. Essentially, you multiply the number of outs that you have to make a hand, which will determine your percentage odds. In almost every case, the multiplier is two, but in a rare few circumstances, you will multiply by four (hence the name).

So, if you are playing a hand and you see that there are six outs in the deck to win, you can determine that your odds of winning the hand are 12% (6 x 2). Whether it’s on the flop, the turn, or the river, you will only multiply by two. Thus, if there are ten outs, you have a twenty percent chance of winning, and so on.

So what about the four rule? That only comes into play when your opponent goes all in on the flop, meaning that you don’t have to worry about another bet or raise until the river. In this case, because you have two cards coming out to make a potential hand, you will multiply your outs by four instead of two. Thus, if you count eight outs on the flop with your opponent all-in, you can determine that you have a 32% chance of winning the hand.

As we said, it’s rare that you will ever be able to multiply by four, but it can happen. For the most part, though, only multiply by two.

Warnings for the User

So, it’s just that simple, right? It may seem that way. However, there are some important caveats with the Rule of Four and Two that you have to be aware of first. We already discussed the fact that you almost never multiply by four, but there is another thing that you need to think about when determining your outs.

Assuming that you have studied your opponents, you should know whether or not an all-in bet is legitimate or a bluff. Thus, if the opponent goes in on the flop, you should manage to guess what kind of hand he has. It could be in play already, or one he is hoping to draw on the turn or river.

Let’s say for example the board looks like this
A♠, 5♦, 4♠

You have two spades in your hand, and your opponent goes all in. You have to assume that he either has a two and a three (to make a straight) or potentially two spades, like you. On the outside, he could have a pocket pair that will give him trips with a potential full house.

Knowing all of that, you have to determine your outs. Based on what you know for sure, you have nine potential outs that could make your hand. We get that number because there are thirteen spades, and you can account for four of them already.

Playing More Conservatively

But what if the other player has trips made on the flop? If he has two Aces in his hand, that means that a five of spades will help him make a full house, which means that you shouldn’t count that as an out, as it will kill your hand. Thus, we have to consider only eight outs so far (if we want to play conservatively).

The other thing we have to keep in mind is if he has two spades in his hand, and is thus going all in hoping for a flush. If that is the case, then we have to reduce our count by two, meaning that there are seven outs.

Thus, if you want to play ultra conservatively, you will make your percentage odds based on the lowest possible number of outs (seven), creating a percentage of 28%. If you want to play more aggressively, then you can assume all nine, which will give you a percentage of 36%. We have these numbers only because he went all in on the flop. Had he done so on the turn, our percentages would be much lower.

(Note: in this case, we don’t care if he has a straight because we are playing for a flush. Therefore, even if he flopped a straight that doesn’t affect our percentage odds.)

Percentage Odds vs. Pot Odds

While determining your percentage odds is important, what does that mean as far as a strategy? Simply put, you need to be able to quickly use the Rule of Four and Two to calculate your percentage odds.  Comparing these with your pot odds, you will automatically know whether you should call, raise, or fold.

For example, if the board looks like this

2♠, 8♣, 10♦

Your Hand: 9♠, J♦

Then your percentage odds will be 16% because there are eight outs that could make your hand (four sevens and four queens).

Now, we have to compare that to the pot odds. Let’s say that your opponent bets $10 to make the pot $40. If you call, then the pot will be $50, making your pot odds stand at 20%. We know this because $10 is 20% of $50.

Thus, when we compare the two percentages, we know that the pot odds are higher than our percentage odds, which means we should fold. Unless our chances of winning are greater than the pot odds, we shouldn’t move forward. If it’s close, however (such as 18% to 19%), then it will be up to you if you want to proceed.

Example Hand

Let’s create another example to see how this all works in action. Let’s say that you are playing against an opponent in a 10/20 No-Limit game. Before the flop comes out, the pot sits at $20 (two big blinds).

Your hand: A♦, 9♠

The Flop: 10♥, Q♠, 4♣

In this case, you will be playing for an overpair that will beat the board. Because you don’t have enough for a straight or a flush, this is your only option. Your opponent bets $10, bringing the total pot to $30.

Looking at the cards, you can determine that you only have 6% chance of winning, because there are only three outs left for you to make a hand (three Aces in the deck). If you call, the pot odds will be 25% ($10 out of $40 total pot), meaning that you should fold.

Now, let’s say that your opponent checked, and you did as well. Now we have the turn.

Board: 10♥, Q♠, 4♣, J♦

With the turn, your percentage odds went way up, because now you have an open-ended straight as well as the possibility of an overpair. So, your new percentage odds are 22%, because there are four eights, four kings, and three aces left, which total eleven out cards.

Now we have to look at the pot odds. If your opponent bets $20 to bring the pot total to $40, then that means your pot odds are now 33% to call($20 is one-third of $60). Again, in this case, your chances of winning are not enough to call. It just won’t be profitable.

Keep in Mind

Rule of Two and Four

When looking at the Rule of Four and Two, it can be a huge help if you’re concerned about profitability in the long term. As long as you know how to figure out the number of outs, and assuming that you know your multiplication tables, this is a very easy rule to follow.

Here is what you should keep in mind, based on what we have learned.

● You will almost never multiply by four
● If your opponent goes all in, consider what hand he has before counting your outs
● This rule only applies to percentage odds
● When comparing your percentage to your pot odds, only call if your chance of winning exceeds the pot percentage
● This rule only applies to Texas Hold Em

With all of that in your head, you should be able to make your decisions much quicker, which will result in less money wasted in the long term.  If you still haven’t got your head around things, this video from explains things really well.

Rule of Four and Two Conclusion

Overall, when it comes to poker rules, this one is relatively straightforward and easy to learn. Fortunately, though, the 2/4 Rule is as valuable as it is simple, meaning that it can automatically increase your potential on the table and turn you from a novice to a pro. The quicker you can determine your percentages and pot odds, the better off you will be in the long run.

We welcome your comments and thoughts in the section below, and we would love to hear some examples of when the rule has (or hasn’t) worked for you. We hope you enjoyed reading our guide to the Rule of Four and Two in Texas Hold’em Poker, and as always, good luck at the tables!

I'm a tech geek who enjoys extreme sports, computing and, of course, an avid poker enthusiast.

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