Calculating Pot Odds: A Beginner's Guide

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Calculating Pot Odds: A Beginner's Guide

Post  Scat Damon on Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:52 pm

By: Daniel Skolovy

Once you have learned how to quickly calculate your outs, it's time to learn how to calculate your pot odds.

Understanding and acting on pot odds is critical to winning at poker. You'll need to take pot odds into consideration when determining if it will be profitable to draw to your straight or flush - a decision you will make dozens of times in a single session.

When you're playing poker, you'll frequently encounter this scenario: Your opponent has a made hand and is betting, and you're in the pot with nothing but a draw.

When you're "drawing," it means you have four to a straight or four to a flush and are hoping a card on a later street will make you a winning hand. Learning to calculate your outs and odds will teach you when you can draw profitably and when it's time to just let your hand go.

Much like calculating your outs, calculating your pot odds sounds a lot more difficult than it is. With a little practice and a little seventh-grade math, you can master this concept fairly quickly.

An example:

This example uses Limit Hold'em because it simplifies things; however, in No-Limit exactly the same dynamic is at play.

Game is $1/$2 Limit Hold'em. You have A♥ K♥ on the button. It's folded to you on the button and you raise to $2.

The small and big blinds both call and you go three-handed to a flop of J♠ Q♣ 3♥. The small blind bets $1 and the big blind calls.

Jonas Klausen
"With a little practice and a little seventh-grade math, you can master pot odds fairly quickly."

What odds are you getting?

Well, let's count the bets. Three players put $2 in before the flop. 3x$2=$6. On the flop the small blind bet $1 and the big blind called. $1+$1 = $2.

So $6 in pre-flop action and $2 in flop action = $8. Now you have to call $1 to win an $8 pot. You are getting 8-1 immediate odds on your call.

The odds that the pot are laying you are 8-1. Now how do you use this to your advantage?

Now you calculate your outs - an "out" card being one that can come on a later street that will give you a winning hand.

If you determine that your opponents both have a pair of queens with a bad kicker, you have six outs with your two overcards plus four tens to make a straight for a total of 10 outs.

Now you do some more (simple) math. You've seen five cards (your two hole cards plus the three board cards) out of 52. That means there are 47 cards left in the deck (52-5=47).

Ten of those 47 cards will give you the winning hand on the turn, and 37 won't (37/10=3.7) so the odds of making your hand are 3.7-1.

For your call to be profitable on the flop, the pot would need to be laying you at least 3.7-1. As we've seen, the pot is actually laying you 8-1, so calling the bet on the flop would show you a positive expectation (EV) in the long run.

Implied Odds

You won't always be able to limit yourself to calling only when the immediate pot odds are correct. There are also circumstances in which you can profitably call without correct odds on the betting round you're currently involved in.

Isaac Baron
"Stop chasing "feelings" and start chasing correct odds. Before you know it you'll be a winning player."

This is because of betting to come on later streets, with the initial bad odds overcome by making a big bet should you make your hand.

Implied odds are the implied bets of those later rounds. For more on how they factor into your decision at this stage, see the in-depth article on implied odds.

That's all there is to it. The math is elementary; anybody should be able to do it in their head. Simple calculations like this are really the essence of poker.

If you're only calling bets when the pot is laying you correct odds (or when you have good implied odds), in the long run you will be a profitable poker player.

So get into the habit of calculating pot odds. Do it for pots you are not involved in. If you can do it quickly and easily on the spot, the guesswork in your poker game will be eliminated.

Once you have overcome just chasing "a feeling" about your draw, start chasing with correct odds. Your whole poker game will turn around. Before you know it, you'll be a winning poker player.
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Scat Damon
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