Understanding Pot Odds in Poker
Sat 10 June 2017
Pot Odds are used mainly by players at the limit tables to decide if they should call, raise or fold. Especially at loose tables with many players in the hand, your play should depend almost completely on pot odds and is more important than reading other people's hands and intuition. The information given below may seem a little complicated at first. If it is, reread it 2 or 3. Go and play for a couple of hours and then reread it again. You'll soon understand and be able to use pot odds against your opponents. Pot odds is the ratio of what you put in compared to what the current money in the pot is. For example, if there is $20 in the pot and I have to call a $2 raise, the pot odds are 10 to 1 in your favor. Thus, if I'm in this situation and I surmise I have a 1 in 4 chance of wining the hand, I should call or possibly raise depending on the situation. The number of outs you have are the number of cards in the deck that will win the hand for you. Now, you have usually have no way of knowing for sure that you'll win the hand if you get them but usually you can make a pretty accurate guess.
If I only need one more card for an ace high flush and I have the ace in my hand, I can assume in most situations that I will win the hand if I get the flush. Obvious exceptions would be if there is three of a kind on the table and someone is likely to beat you with a full house. If there is only the river to go in holdem (one more card) and you have 4 hearts, there are still 9 cards left in the deck and with 4 cards on the table and 2 in your hand, there are 46 cards in the deck. That means you will make your flush 9 times and miss it 37 times (46 minus 9). So, if you have 4 hearts and there is $20 in the pot you must call a raise of $2. The odds of you making the flush are 9 to 37, or about 1 to 4. However, the pot odds are higher at 1 to 10 ($2 to $20). To make this point more clear, supposing you make the flush you will not win anymore bets on the river, you will win $20. Every time this happens you will miss the flush four times and lose $2 each time for a total of $8.
That means you make a total profit of $20 - $8 = $12. As you can see, this is a profitable play. Now, this works well with only the river card to go, however when you have just seen the flop it is harder to figure out the odds and you also must take a guess at how many bets will be added to the pot in the future. You may have a straight draw that is barely worth a call looking at the money in the pot right now. But, if you expect to get more bets in later rounds if you make the straight, you can also include that money as potential money you can win. You should be careful though as sometimes when you get the straight, other players realize it and stop betting. Usually this isn't a huge problem on loose tables but it is something to be aware of. For the Curious Only Figuring out odds manually when there is 2 cards coming is a bit of a pain but for those who want to know I've given an example below to explain it. I will be putting together a chart with the major odds listed so you can see quickly without getting out your calculator. So here we go.
Once again, you have 4 hearts on the flop and there are 2 cards still to come, what are the odds of getting the flush? Well, on the first card you see it is 9/47. Now, you will miss the first time 38/47 (9 times you hit and 38 you miss) and on the second card the odds are 9/46 when this happens. So your odds are 9/47 + 38/47 * (9/46) = 1/2.86 or 1 to 1.86. The thing that is complicated is figuring the odds for that second card. You must multiply the percentage of times when you need to get it for the flush (the percentage of time you don't get the flush on the first card) by the chances of you getting the flush on the river card. Many people fail to calculate this correctly but the slight change in odds very seldom makes a difference whether you call but for those who want absolutely correct data, this is how it's done. Using pot odds and outs are essential to playing winning poker. No player can win against good players without a complete understanding of pot odds and how they effect the game. After a while, you will not have to think about them, you will know instantly if a play is profitable or not and you can even play 3 or 4 games at once. However, at the start it is good to play only one game and, every time you are faced with a decision after the flop, you should use pot odds and outs to decide if it is a profitable play or not. Once you do this and it becomes second nature, you can worry about more important things like reading your oppenents and understanding how they are playing.