Pot Odds in Poker (cont.)

We have been getting several requests for more information regarding poker pot odds and the practical application of them to everyday poker.

This article will address some of our more popular questions regarding pot odds, including: what are pot odds; how do I calculate pots odds; and what do I do once I know the pot odds?

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To start, let’s take another look at the definition of pot odds. Pot odds are simply the amount of money in any given pot in relation to the amount you must call to continue playing in the hand.

The easiest way to explain pot odds is to think of betting on a horse. When you bet a horse you are getting odds based on its chance of winning. If a horse is 5 to 1, you will receive $5 for every $1 you bet. A poker pot is also constantly giving you odds; they are just a little harder to see.

To calculate your poker pot odds, take the amount in the pot and divide it by the amount you must put in to call.

Example: The pot contains $25. A player has bet $5. To remain in the hand you must call the $5 bet. In order to determine the pot odds divide 25 by 5 and you get 5. The pot odds in this example are 5 to 1.

Keep in mind, when calculating your current pot odds you do not count money you have put in the pot on previous rounds of betting (including blinds). Once the money is in the pot it is no longer yours. You only figure in the amount it will cost you to call the current bet.

Hopefully this clears up the “how” of pot odds; now let’s move on to the “why.”

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Despite popular belief, pot odds alone are rarely reason enough to make a call. One exception is when a bet is such a small percentage of the overall pot that not calling is absolutely the wrong play. This occurs most often when a player is all in or doesn’t have enough money to make a full bet.

Aside from the above instance, pot odds are most often a piece to a larger equation. To correctly use pot odds you must compare them to your estimated odds of winning the hand. In doing so, you are looking for a higher pay off if you win, than your actual chance of winning.

As in the horse race example above (horse is listed at 5 to 1 to win) – if you believe the horse has a better than 5 to 1 bodog-poker-bad-beatchance of winning, you would bet it because the payoff is higher than the actual odds of the horse winning.

Applying pot odds to poker can be similar to betting horses, although it can also be much more exact. In most cases with poker, you can precisely determine your odds of winning by calculating your true odds. This is unlike horse wagering where you are just guessing what the true odds should be.

To calculate your actual odds of winning you must first determine what cards will make you a winner. If you need to complete your open-ended straight to win the hand, you need one of the remaining eight cards that will give you that straight. You have eight outs. Next, figure out the chance of getting the card you need.

In this example we will use the 4/2 method outlined in our article poker outs.

If you have eight outs after the turn – you have roughly a 16% chance of getting the card you need to make your straight, or about 7 to 1.

Once you have determined your chance of winning the pot, you compare it to your pot odds to decide whether or not to call. Here you are looking for the pot odds to be higher than your actual odds of winning.

In our earlier example, we determined our pot odds to be 5 to 1. We can see now that this is not an ideal call since our odds of winning the hand, 7 to 1, are less than the true odds if we win.

If we had calculated the pot odds to be 10 to 1, you would most certainly call because 10 to 1 is higher than the 7 to 1 chance you have of winning.

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In addition to calculating the true odds and comparing them to the pot odds, there are select situations where you should figure in future bets before deciding whether or not to call.

Example: if you are on a draw hand such as a straight or flush, and you know that if you make your hand you will be able to raise and get more money in the pot, you may want to call even if your current pot odds do not warrant it.  Even though the pot odds don’t tell you to call, by factoring in the money to be made on future bets, the pot odds will change.

Hopefully this crash course has shed some light on what pot odds are and how they should be used. Please feel free to contact us with any further questions regarding pot odds or other poker inquires.