Understanding Pot Odds

What are Pot Odds?

In their simplest form, odds are estimations of how likely an event is to occur. As any true gambler or handicapper will tell you, the trick to being successful is not what you bet, but the value you get betting it. Professional gamblers search out occasions where they can potentially get back more value from their bet than they are risking.

Actual Odds and Gambling

Weigh your pot odds to determine how to play a hand.

Weigh your pot odds to determine how to play a hand.

In a coin flip there are two possible outcomes- heads or tails. No matter what side comes up one time, there is always a 50% chance of either side coming up the next. This never changes. No matter how many times heads has come up in a row, the next flip you still have a 50% chance of seeing tails.

Therefore, your actual odds are 1 to 1, for every $1 you bet you will win $1.

Now, if someone said, “I’ll flip this quarter and give you $2 for every $1 you bet and guess right” that would mean the odds are in your favor. You are getting paid more if you win than the actual odds of winning.

This doesn’t mean you will win this flip each time, but in the long run the odds are in your favor. This is exactly how casinos make their money, they have an overall advantage, and in the long haul will ultimately win more than they lose (a lot more).

More about Pot Odds

Pot odds factor in the total amount already in the pot (the pay off) vs. the amount of your next call or bet (the risk).

Example: there is $100 already in the pot. You have four cards to a flush, if you hit the flush, you win. Someone bets $5 – should you call? Yes, you have pot odds.

As you can see, odds play a tremendous roll in poker. If you see a sharp player making a call you think he shouldn’t have made, chances are he has pot odds.

The simplest way to calculate your pot odds is to already have a working knowledge of your overall odds. You can either take the time to do the math, or check our quick reference Texas Hold’em card odds section for some basic numbers. Once you’ve figured out your odds of making a hand, you can move on to the pot odds to determine your next move.

Another simple example: you have a pair of 5’s. There has been a raise and a few calls, and now it’s your turn. You don’t think your 5’s will win, but you are certain that a set of 5’s will.

You know that your chance of hitting a third 5 on the flop is nearly 8 to 1. So in order for you to have pot odds, there needs to be more than 8 bets already in the pot for you to call. Count the bets and raises, if the number is over eight, you have pot odds and may want to call.

By learning the basics of pot odds and continuing to develop your game you will greatly increase your overall profit. The key is not to get overwhelmed, but rather to apply the principles you learn over time to help in order to make informed decisions.

Developing a well-rounded poker game takes time and patience, but in the end the rewards well out-weigh the risk.