Poker strategy: Improve your game by learning Pot Odds

  • Written by David Bet
Poker strategy: Improve your game by learning Pot Odds

One of your ke decisions will come when deciding whether or not to stay in the pot when challenged with a bet. It's not always a problem: if you think you're leading, feel free to raise. The difficulty arises when having hand that's probably not in the lead, but could become the winning hand by catching a needed card. such winning card are called 'outs'. 

Learning Pot Odds in Poker: An example 

- You're in a game and your hole cards are 4-3. After the turn, the board reads A-K-8-2 (there was no betting on the flop). At this point you have the absolutely worst possible hand, but you do have an inside straight draw, you need a 5 on the river.

- You and your opponent have €100 each, the pot is €1 and your opponent is first to act. Let's say that he holds A-A and at this point has the nuts (top set).

- If he now bets al of his €100, making the pot €101, you will have ti pay €100 to catch one of the four 5's in the deck. (This will happen about 9% of the time).

Even a beginner, while not knowing the exact percentage, should realise that this is a losing proposition. It's not worth paying €100 to win €101 one time out of 11.

On the other hand, if the first player bets only 10 cents, it's most certainly worth calling. The pot now offers you the correct amount in porportion to the bet, but even more important, if a 5 actually came on the river, you'd have a chance to win much more than the current pot, maybe even the €99,90 that your opponent has remaining.

In etiher scenario, you chance catching your card is the same. But a call in the first example is a horrible play, and in the second an excellent one.

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Poker Pot Odds: Do your math 

Is it worth calling to catch the card you need, or is it better to fold? A quick calculation can help you to decide.

- First you calculate the pot odds by dividing the pot size by the cost to call. So if the pot size is €100 and the cost to call is €5, you divide 100 by 5, which is 20 (100/5=20).

- Second, you calculate your chance to catch one of your winning cards. For instance, if you have flopped a flush draw, you already have 4 of  the 13 cards in that suit. There are 9 left that will give you a flash on the turn, so you have 9 outs of the 47 unseen cards.

- Now divide 47 by 9 and you'll get your card odds: 47/9=5.2. This means that for every 5,2 times you call, you'll complete your flush once.

Now compare the numbers. If your 'pot odds' number is higher than your 'card odds' number you should call, otherwise not.

It can get more complicated than it straightforward example. But learining to calculate pot odds gives you a playing advantage. Here's a simple table covering some of the more common situations after the flop that might help. 

poker pot odds

This was just a basic primer on pot-odds: there's a lot more to learn. But you will the more you play, and eventually, doing a rough pot odds calculation will become second nature.

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