Filmmakers love the game of poker for its tension, skill and psychological battles. When you see James Bond at the card table, he always seems to get incredible hands whenever he plays, and so do his opponents. You’ll often see him sitting with a full house against the villain’s flush in a battle of the biggest hands and the strongest nerve.
Unfortunately, in real life, the game of poker is rarely as exciting as it is in the movies. That’s not because we lack Bond’s nerve or suave one-liners but because the odds of getting such great hands are against us. When you take a closer look at the chances of getting a hand with anything more than a pair, you start to see how much of a fantasy world our film stars live.
Big Chance of a Small Hand
Peel away the glitz and glamor of the movies, and you find that the most likely hand you’ll get in five-card stud or five-card draw is a “high” — a hand in which nothing goes with anything else and so, the biggest card dictates the strength of your hand. The odds of this are better than even money at 0.995:1, which means it will happen more than half of the time. What’s more, there is a 42 percent chance that you will only get a pair, so together that means you have a greater than 92 percent chance of having little to play with your turn. That means more than nine out of every 10 hands are unlikely to earn real money at poker, which is not quite 007 territory.
Bad Odds of a Good Hand
Whether you’re playing at a poker live or at one of the leading online casinos, even the medium strength hands are still pretty hard to get. The chances of getting two pairs are around 4.75 in every 100 hands, and the chances of getting three of a kind are only 2.11 in every hundred hands. While these are long odds, they pale in comparison to the chances of getting the top hands that Bond gets. You will only get a flush around one in every 500 hands, and four of a kind is only dealt once in every 4,000 hands on average.
A Royal Rarity
The biggest hand of them all, the royal flush, is of course, the rarest, but how rare is it? A random deal of five cards from a pack of 52 offers 2,598,960 possible combinations, but only four ways in which you can make the top hand. That means the odds of finding one after the deal are one in 649,740 or around three times in every two million hands. On average, you would only get a royal flush once, even if you played 20 hands of poker every day for 90 years. Of course, the laws of probability say that this could happen on the first hand or the 649,740th, and it is equally unlikely each time, regardless of how many hands you have already played.
The Hand That Breaks the Rules
Almost all poker hands follow the basic rule that the harder it is to get, the higher the hand ranks. However, there is one poker hand that turns that rule on its head. According to card-trick.com, although the seven high is 120 times harder to make than an ace high, due to the lower number of possible card combinations, it ranks much lower. It is an odd anomaly in an otherwise highly logical game.
Of course, at the end of the day, it is not so much about the cards you get as what you do with them. The luck of the draw is only a small part of success in poker, and what attracts most players is the skill and the mind games that go on once the dealer deals the cards.
So, the next time you’re watching a card game on the silver screen, bear in mind that the hands your heroes get are as much a work of fiction as the rest of the plot. But then, Bond wouldn’t be Bond if he had to play with the same cards like the rest of us, would he? He truly is larger than life both at the card table and away from it.