Calculating poker pot odds is an important skill which every poker player
needs to learn. Poker is a game of betting, the pot odds are the price you are
paying to call a bet as a proportion of the current size of the pot. This
article looks at how to calculate poker pot odds and some of the uses of pot
odds during the course of a hand.
A simple pot odds calculation would look like this. There is $80 currently in the pot, your opponent bets an additional $20 and you have to decide whether to call or fold. The pot odds are the original $80 + $20 bet or $100 in total divided by the amount of your call or $20 – in this example you are getting 5/1 pot odds and would call the bet if you felt that your hand had a better than 1 in 5 chance of winning the pot.
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Pot odds are important because taking positive expectation bets is what
separates winning poker players from losing players. For example if the pot was
$50 and your opponent went all-in for his last $25 on the turn you would be
getting $75/$25 or 3/1 odds from the pot. If you had 4 cards to a flush and
nothing else at this point and judged your opponent to have a high pair you
would need to compare your chances of making the flush with the pot odds you
were being offered. With only the river card to come you are approximately 4.5/1
against completing your flush and should fold this hand, as regardless of the
outcome of any one hand, calling here will lose money over time.
In no-limit Holdem you can control the pot odds that you are offering to your opponents by betting various amounts in relation to what is already in the pot. If you suspect that your opponent has a drawing hand such as 4 cards to a flush or a straight you can ensure that the pot odds you are offering them are less than the chance of them completing their hand. If you opponent calls they are making an error which will cost them money over time – regardless of the outcome of any single hand.
When calculating pot odds during a hand you may be in a position to factor future betting into the math. In the example where you have a draw to a flush, if your opponent still had money left to bet, you may expect that a bet of $50 will be called at the end of the hand should the river card complete the flush. This is known as your ‘implied odds’ and is an extension of the simple pot odds calculation. In this example the $75/$25 or 3/1 pot odds could become $125/$25 or 5/1 – you now have a profitable call if you are sure that your opponent will call your last bet when you make your hand.