Understanding the concept of pot odds is a crucial part of becoming a competent poker player. When you can calculate pot odds quickly and accurately during a hand you are able to make better and more informed decisions about when to bet, call, raise, or fold.
Pot odds are used in combination with the odds of making a winning hand to determine the right course of action. You can use pot odds to figure out what to do with any hand you might be holding, but they most often come into play when you have a straight draw, flush draw, or both.
To put it in the most simple terms, when the pot odds are as good as, or better than, your odds of making your hand, you should at least call any bet in front of you. Of course though, as with most poker concepts, things can and do get much more complicated.
Let’s take a look at how to calculate pot odds and use them to your advantage every time you sit down at the poker table.
How To Calculate Pot Odds In Poker
Before we get into the calculations, it’s important for you to understand that any money you have already put into the pot, or are about to put into the pot, is no longer yours. That money becomes part of the pot and what you will win, so it also becomes part of the calculation. In other words, you’re not just counting the money your opponent has put into the pot.
The basic formula to calculate your pots odds is to divide the amount you have to call by the total size of the pot, including your opponent’s bet. Since, if you call, the amount you call will become part of the pot, it is included in the total pot size. So the formula is:
Pot Odds = Amount To call / Pot Size + Opponent’s Bet + Amount To Call
As an example, let’s say you’re involved in a hand with a single opponent and there is already $200 in the pot. Your opponent bets $100. If we fill in the formula above, you would get: $100 / $200 + $100 + $100 = .25 (25%). This means that you would need at least a 26% chance of making the winning hand to make a profitable call.
How Pot Odds Affect Decisions In Poker
Once you understand how pot odds affect you when you have a drawing hand, you should also think about how they affect your opponent when the roles are reversed. When you are reasonably sure that your opponent is trying to hit a drawing hand you can make bets or raises that will deny him the proper pot odds to continue.
You can manipulate pot odds to create situations that will either make good players fold or bad players call when they should fold. If we go back to the example above, for instance, making a half-pot bet would not provide the correct pot odds for someone trying to draw to either a straight or a flush. A competent player should fold and a bad player may call. Either way, the half-pot bet will be a profitable move for you in the long run against players who are chasing a draw.
You can also use pot odds against your opponent when they make a bet that you believe is a semi-bluff (a bet made with an incomplete drawing hand). If you are fairly certain that your opponent is betting as a semi-bluff, you can raise his bet, changing the pot odds so that it would be incorrect for him to call.
Incorporating Implied Pot Odds
When you’re looking strictly at the money and cards in front of you, pot odds are very straightforward. However, as we said above, things can and do get more complicated.
There is another concept called implied odds that you’ll need to pay attention to as well. A complete explanation of implied odds is outside the scope of this article, but let’s consider some other situations that can complicate the idea of making decisions based solely on the current pot odds.
Let’s say that you are heads-up with another player on the flop. You have a flush draw and that player makes a half-pot bet. Technically, you are not getting the right pot odds to call profitably. However, if you believe that your opponent is going to bet again on the turn even if you hit your flush, then that extra bet could actually make calling this bet on the flop correct.
You’ll have even better implied odds, and more reason to call, if you believe that you’ll be able to get your opponent to put in most or all of his stack after you hit your draw.
In these examples, you are not just thinking about the money currently in the pot, but also extra money that an aggressive opponent is likely to contribute after you hit your draw and have a winning hand.
Consider How Many Cards To Come
Another thing to consider is whether you will only get to see one more card or two if you call a bet. The calculations we’ve discussed so far are for finding the odds necessary to call and try to hit your hand with only one card coming.
If you are fairly sure that you can call on the flop and then check the turn and also see the river card without facing another bet, you have higher odds of hitting your hand. Therefore, your current pot odds don’t have to be as good.
This also happens if your opponent goes all-in on the flop. When one player is all-in on the flop, that means that if the other calls there will be no more bets and two more cards will be drawn. In this case, you need to consider the current pot odds against your chance to hit your draw with two cards coming, not just one.
Practice Makes Perfect
Calculating pot odds during a poker hand can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but with a bit of practice, it becomes easy to make the calculations on the fly. One trick you can use it to simply memorize the pot odds created by different standard bet sizes.
The following five should cover quite a lot of situations at the poker table:
● ¼ Pot-size Bet = 16%
● ½ Pot-size Bet = 25%
● ⅔ Pot-size Bet = 28%
● ¾ Pot-size Bet = 30%
● Pot-size Bet = 33.3%
In each situation above, you would need to have a higher chance of hitting your draw than the percentage given. You can use the values to determine when you should call with a drawing hand or how much to bet to deny your opponent the correct odds to draw.
Join The Discussion
What do you think? Do you use pot odds to make your decisions while you play? Have questions? Speak up in the comments below!
Don’t forget, you can also talk to fellow players and the Enhance Your Edge team live 24 hours a day on the EYE Discord server. Then, of course, if you’re ready to put some of your new poker knowledge to work, you can also get into a game with us on PKC.