Pot odds - working the numbers
Using pot odds and implied pot odds to get an edge
Understanding pot odds and implied odds will sharpen up your betting, ease your decision making and help keep you consistently in profit over the long term… and it’s easier to do than it may look at first (even if you’re amongst the numerically challenged). Where you take it beyond the basics is up to you. Some players base their whole game on the odds – successful players tend to see this side of the game as one of many weapons.
Pot odds
In a nutshell, pot odds are your chances of making a hand compared to the amount of money in the pot and the cost to get in. If you consistently bet when the pot odds are in your favor, over time you can expect to come out on top. It’s that simple.
Here’s a simple illustration. Everyone knows that the chances of flipping over a red card from a deck of 52 standard playing cards are 50/50, or 1 in 2. Let’s say I offer you a bet that pays off at 3 to 1, or three times your bet, that the next card is red. Assuming that I’m playing it straight, you’re getting great pot odds. The chances of your black showing up are 50/50 and the payoff is $3 for every $1 you wager. By the time we’re done playing you’ll have to loan me bus fare to get home.
Now the odds of any particular hole cards developing into a made hand are just as straightforward as the red card vs. black card example above and we’ve got this handy chart in Odds and outs that does a lot of the work for you.
A real world example in poker...
Let’s say you’re in a no-limit cash game holding...
Ks Qs
And the flop looks like this...
Jc 8s 9s
The big blind is 30 cents. There are two callers in the hand who both bet the minimum after the flop, so the pot is now, say, $1.95. What now? Let’s take a look at the pot odds.
First we know that, as things stand, the pot is potentially offering you a $1.95 return for the 30-cent wager it would cost to stay in the hand. That’s a payout of better than 6 to 1. So, if you’re looking for good value, you’ll want to know if your chances of winning the pot are better than 6 to 1.
Let’s look at the cards...
Right now you’ve got nothing, nada, zip, a big fat zero. The bets coming before you indicate some strength so you know that, at this point, you’re probably losing. But wait. The two previous bets aren’t exactly screaming powerhouse, are they? Assuming neither player is slow-playing it’s safe to assume that their on pairs or drawing hands.
So, having thought a little bit about things, you know that filling in the straight or the flush would most likely make you the winner of this hand. What’s more, hitting your K or Q would also put you in a very strong position (though you’re too smart to forget about the straight the Q might make for someone else).
Now it’s time to glance at your chances. You do this by adding up all the cards left in the deck that could complete your hand. In this case there are nine cards that could finish your flush (the nine hearts you haven’t seen yet) and three cards that could finish your straight (the three tens out there). That’s a total of 12 cards (or ‘outs’) to complete a monster hand against 47 that you don’t know about – that’s a 4 to 1 chance on winning a bet that pays 6 to 1.
What’s more, there are three kings and three queens that could come – giving you another six outs to make a very strong hand. Add it up and you’ve got a massive 18 outs in the 47 cards that you haven’t seen yet. You haven’t got time to calculate exactly how that compares to the pot odds, but a quick glance tells you it’s a heck of a lot better than the 1 in 6 of hitting an out on the turn (actually it’s close to 5 to 2, or 40 per cent).
A couple more things…
First, you may have noticed that figuring pot odds is not an exact science. Sure, you can get your calculator out and parse out the exact chances of making your hand down to the third decimal, but knowing what other players are holding involves observation, intuition and sometimes just plain old guessing. Put Kristine on Ah-Jh in the example above and things change pretty dramatically. Bottom line, you can’t do good poker with a just a calculator.
Second, pot odds work over the long term. Play enough poker and you’ll find yourself going through stages where hands that just shouldn’t beat you do. Bad beats and suck-outs hurt but remember, play the odds correctly over the long term and you will win it back, and more.
Implied odds
Implied odds are all about what‘s going to happen next and what it might cost you to see your hand through.
One common situation where implied odds come into sharp focus is the high pair versus the straight or flush draw. Let’s say your playing at the same blind level as the example above and but this time both players bet $1.20. That would make the pot $3.75 when the betting gets to you after the flop and it would cost you $1.20 to stay in the hand.
Now your pot odds dropped to about a 3-1 payout (almost acceptable considering your odds of hitting) BUT you need to see the turn AND the river to make those odds work. With aggressive betting like that after the flop it’s unlikely that players will just check on the turn and river. It’s a safe assumption that it’s going to cost you even more to see the river if you don’t hit on the turn.
What’s more those big bets should be telling you something about the strength of you opponents hands. With big bets (and calls) like that there’s a decent chance you may be up against two pair or a made straight – both of which would make pairing your K or Q later on fruitless.
Stack size also effects implied odds. If a player is short stacked then the amount they can bet later on in a hand is limited. For example, if a player with a stack size of $10 bets $5, you know that they can only bet another $5 in that hand and you can adjust the implied odds accordingly. |