Pot odds are among the most critical concepts in Texas holdem. The idea is relatively simple, but many beginners pay no attention to the concept of pot odds.
Implied odds are also significant, and new poker players who ignore pot odds have no idea about implied odds, either.
This post aims to introduce both concepts. Since implied odds are a specific way of looking at pot odds, I’ll start by explaining pot odds.
Odds are a ratio of how likely something is to happen compared to how likely it is to NOT happen.
Odds are also a ratio of how much you stand to win on a bet compared to how much you stand to lose.
If I say the odds of winning a bet are “4 to 1,” it means you have 4 ways to lose for every way you have to win. This is the same thing as having a 1/5 or 20% probability of winning.
You’re betting on a single number at the roulette table, and the odds offered on that bet are 35 to 1. For every unit you bet, you win 35 units if your number comes up.
In poker, “pot odds” refer to how much you stand to win compared with what it will cost you to call a bet. Here’s an example.
You’re playing preflop in a $4/$8 Texas holdem game, and there’s $20 in the pot. If it costs you $4 to call a bet, you’re getting pot odds of 5 to 1.
If you estimate that you’ll win more often than one out of every six hands, calling has a long-term profitable mathematical expectation.
Let’s say you estimate that your hand will win one out of every three times. This means you’ll lose twice for every time you win. You’re losing $4 on those two bets, for a total loss of $8.
But if you’re winning $20 on the one out of three bets you win, you have a net profit of $12.
An out is a card you need to make your hand the winner. For example, if you have the ace and king of hearts before the flop, and you also have two hearts show up on the board, you have nine outs. There are 13 hearts in the deck, and four of them are already accounted for.
Since you have 52 cards total in the deck, and you know what 5 of them are, you know that you have a 9/47 probability of getting a heart as the next card.
You can convert that into odds of 4.2 to 1. To do that, you 47 by 9 and subtract 1. But you also get another shot at the card you need on the river, so the odds are even better than that, about 2 to 1.
If you have $30 in the pot, and it costs you $10 to call a bet to stay in the hand, it makes sense to do so. You’re getting a 3 to 1 payout on a bet you’ll win with 2 to 1 odds of winning.
Here’s a shortcut to help you calculate the probability of hitting a hand:
If you’re on the flop, and you want to calculate the probability of hitting your hand on the next card, multiply the number of outs you have by two. That gives you an approximation of the percentage chance of hitting your hand on the next card.
If you want to know your probability of hitting your hand by the river, multiply by two again or just multiply it by four in the first place. If you’re waiting for the river card, you’re going to multiply by two.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your hand has two hearts in it. And two of the cards on the flop are also hearts. You have nine cards of that suit left in the deck, which means that you’re looking at 9 x 4, or 36%.
That’s not precisely correct, but it’s close enough that most people can tell that the odds of hitting your hand are about 2 to 1. If you’re getting 4 to 1 or 5 to 1 pot odds, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re getting even money, it’s also a no-brainer.
Once you can calculate the probability of hitting your hand, you can also start thinking about adding the likelihood that your opponent(s) will fold into the mix.
Using the example above, a flush draw, you know you’ll hit your hand 36% of the time. But you can also estimate how often your opponent(s) are likely to fold.
For example, if you’re up against a single opponent that you estimate has a 30% probability of folding to your bet or raise, you have a 66% probability of winning by betting or raising.
30% of the time, your opponent folds, and 36% of the time, he calls, and you go to a showdown that you’ll win when your flush hits.
When you have multiple rounds of betting in front of you, the extra bets on those rounds affect your pot odds, too.
Calculating implied odds is different because you must think about how much you’ll win on the river if you make your hand.
In lower stakes Texas holdem games, a lot of players will go all the way to the showdown with a weak hand. This puts dead money into the pot, thereby increasing your implied odds.
It’s impossible to calculate pot odds or estimate implied odds if you don’t know how much money is in the pot. When playing poker online, it’s easy to see how much money’s in the pot. It’s displayed on your screen.
But in a real-life, you must pay attention to how much money has been put in the pot. I’ve written about the importance of mindfulness for the poker player before. That’s really just a fancy word for “paying attention.”
You’ll see plenty of players who focus on everything but the game being played in front of them, especially when they’re not involved in a pot.
Here’s a suggestion about how to be more mindful and how to improve your ability to keep up with how much money’s in the pot: Count how much money is in the pot at any given time in every hand regardless of whether you’ve folded.
Keeping up with the size of the pot is hard to do at first. But like anything else, it’s a skill you can improve with practice. So, practice!
Pot odds and outs are essential concepts in poker. Without a grounding in these concepts, it’s impossible to have a clue about the expected value of calling a bet, which is an essential part of the game.
Concepts like the rule of two and the rule of four, semi-bluffing, and implied odds all build on a foundation of your understanding of pot odds.
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