Calculating Implied Odds
Implied odds are the more advanced and useful cousin of the standard pot odds. Implied odds are used to determine what your odds are down the line in a hand. For example, if you think that your odds of making a flush on the turn are 1:4, you would take this information and combine it with the likelihood of your opponents to pay you off should you be able to make your hand. Pot odds rely on set in stone data where implied odds come from your own potential outcomes.
Implied odds assume that you have a reasonable feeling for how your opponents play. If you don't have any idea whether someone is going to call or fold if you make your hands, there's no use in figuring out your implied odds. Much of the time you'll be calculating initial implied odds before the flop is even dealt. For example, one of the most common scenarios where implied odds are useful is when you have a small pocket pair pre-flop and are facing either a raise or a re-raise. In this spot, you would compare the likelihood of you hitting your set and getting paid off. If you think you will hit your set 1:8 times but will only get paid off 1:20 times, it really does not matter if you continually flop sets when putting your money in at 1:15. Implied odds may seem very complicated, but they are actually rather simple.
Calculating actual odds is something that's very easy to master and is much more of a math than a science. In fact, standard odds to make or miss any given hand are one of the most basic things that anyone can understand. Though it is of course ideal to know what the true math is behind any situation, it's not always absolutely necessary.
Look at a player like Phil Ivey. Players like him have repeatedly stated that they don't know much about the dynamics of math that are involved in poker. With that said, it's quite apparent that they do have a subtle grasp on the math of the game, even if it's subconsciously. If you play poker long enough, you'll have a rough idea on what the chances are that you'll hit a set, gut shot, or flush.
This information is usually enough to form rough odds in your head. Would you call a $50 bet in a $5 pot to potentially hit a gut shot at a .50/1 NLHE table? No, because you know that your odds of hitting it are close to 1:10, while you are paying more than 10:1. This is a very extreme example, but it illustrates the point that you probably do know the math in poker even if you don't know the numbers.
Common sense and a natural grasp and feel for the game goes a lot further than a calculator in poker, especially when calculating odds. If you can use some basic knowledge of the game based on experience alone, you'll be able to aptly calculate your implied odds.
Calculating Opponent's Play
Your opponent's play is the unknown variable when figuring out what your implied odds might be. If you are playing at a table that is notoriously loose, you'll know that calling a re-raise with a small pocket pair makes sense because you have the shot at a set. Not because you know the chances of hitting the set, but instead because you know that there's a good chance of getting paid off when you are able to hit it.
There's a temptation to make plays based on math even when we know that an opponent's playing style won't really cater to the hand in question. For example, pretend that you flopped a flush draw at .50/1 in a raised pot that isn't at $15 on the flop. If your opponent has $75 and you have $100, you would find it logical to call a small flop bet for the chance at a flush. If this opponent is very tight, however, you'll scale the calls down a bit.
For example, a tight player who bets $15 on this flop with $60 behind is not as worthy of a call as a player who is loose. You know that the $60 will almost certainly go in the middle if you hit your flush against a loose player, while the tight player may very well shut down on the turn or only pay off one more bet. Even if the math makes sense, you should discount or add to the numbers based on how you expect the other player to reasonably react to your card should it happen to hit.
Elements to Consider when Determining Implied Odds
Odds and playing style of your opponents are definitely very important when it comes to implied odds, but so are the more obvious factors including position and stack size. Since you likely already have a firm handle on position and its relevance in a hand, stack size is what you should really focus on. Let's again use the pre-flop set mining example to illustrate stack sizes and their utility when calculating implied odds.
Pretend that you have pocket 5's in middle position at a 3/6 NLHE game. If you open to $18 and face a re-raise to $45, you should always be calling right? Well, what if the player only has $70 total, leaving $25 in their stack? Unless you think that pocket fives are actually ahead of this player's range (they shouldn't be), it doesn't make any sense at all to call in an attempt to set mine. Even if you hit a set 1:5 times, which you won't, you would still be operating at a huge deficit. 1:5 times means you are paying $90 to win $70 in the long run.
Now, if you assume that this same player actually has $600, you are now calling off $27 more for the chance to win $600, putting you at odds closer to 22:1. This means that if you can hit your set AND get paid off with all $600 better than 1:22 times, you'll be making a significant profit. Even the tightest players should pay off at this frequency, so this would be a very easy call. Stack sizes aren't only important, but they are also the most obvious element in determining your implied odds in any hand.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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