Understanding Poker Odds

By Tommie ClarkGoogle
If you have ever played poker before, you may have heard terms such as: “Pot Odds” or “Implied Odds”. These are phrases you will not hear in any other facet of life and could sound like gibberish if you’ve never heard them before.

Odds in poker are the most important aspect of the game and will be what makes you a winner or a loser. Perhaps even more than the cards you are dealt.

The most basic form of odds will apply when you have some type of drawing hand. The most common draws are straights and flushes. These hands will have a mathematical percentage to get there by the end of the hand. You take the amount of money needed to call a bet and compare that to the chances of making your draw. If the bet is more than the odds of making your draw, a fold is in order. Calling bets without proper odds is the biggest mistake players make in poker.

To get a better understanding of how odds in poker work, let’s use an example.

You are dealt AK of hearts in Texas Hold Em. The flop comes Ten of Clubs, 2 of Hearts and the 8 of Hearts. You now have a flush draw and your opponent bets into you.

To know if this bet is worth calling you have to take in to account two factors. How much money is in the pot? And the chances you will make your draw by the last card.

For simplicity sake, let’s just say the pot has $10 in it. Your opponent bets $5 making the pot $15. You have to call $5 to win $15 potentially. To calculate your odds for calling this bet, simply divide the pot size by the bet size. In this example we would divide 15 by 5 giving us 3. We are now getting 3-1 odds on a call. In order for us to make a profitable call we have to win this hand 1 time out of 3.

Now, to know what your chances are making your flush by the river, we use a simple calculation. First determine how many outs you have to make your hand. For a flush it would be 9 outs. There are 13 different cards A through King, making 13 hearts total in a deck. Since we have 2 and there are 2 on the board, we have 9 more hearts left to catch. We now multiple this number of outs by 4 when on the flop and 2 when on the river.

Since we have 2 more cards to come we have a 36% chance two times to make our hand. This means we are now getting roughly 1.9-1 odds on making our hand. In our example we are getting 3-1 odds, therefore making it a very profitable call.

Note that once we reach turn we only have one card left to make our hand. We no longer have 1.9-1 odds. We still have a 36% chance to make the flush but with one card to come we only have a 3-1 chance at this point. For a bet to be profitable at this point, we would have to be getting at least 3-1 odds.

So let’s assume we call and no heart comes on the turn. The pot now has $20. The original 10+$5 bet+ our $5 call =$20.

Our opponent once again bets into us for $15. Using our equations above we determine that this bet is laying us 2.3-1 odds. Not as appealing as the 3-1 odds on the flop, but still not terrible. However, since we know that we need at least 3-1 odds to make a call here, we can make a safe fold knowing that making this call will lose us money in the long run. If we were to make this exact call every time, we would lose roughly $1 every time.       

Now there are other factors that could make this call a profitable one. If we use our implied odds we could likely make this call and win over the long run. Implied odds are when we take into account the amount of money our opponent has in his stack. If we feel that we can some of that or all of it, we add that into our odds.

If an opponent has $50 left in his stack and we are facing this same bet. We would add his stack into the total pot and do our equation to come up with our implied odds.
The pot has $20 and our opponent bets $15 making it $35. If we add in the $50, we come up with $85. Now divide the $85 by the $15 bet and we come up with 5.6-1 odds. This is more than enough odds than we need to make a call correct.

Now, using implied odds to determine if a call is correct takes some practice and skill to perfect. Don’t always assume that you can win your opponents whole stack every time to justify a bad call. There will be plenty of times that there is no way you can win all their money and a fold is in order. Knowing these situations will become second nature with time and practice, but it’s an easy skill to learn.

If you have a hard time doing this math in real time, you really only need to know a few mathematical equations. In this chart provided, it has the most common draws and what olds are needed to make a call correct. Use this at your own pleasure and either memorize it or carry it with you while playing.

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