Poker is a game of skill, strategy and calculated risks. Pot odds is one of the most important concepts to grasp, which is crucial in determining whether it’s profitable to continue in a hand or fold against a bet. In this article, we’ll delve into the concept of pot odds, explain how to calculate them, and provide several examples to illustrate their practical application.
What are Pot Odds?
Pot odds are a numerical representation of the relationship between the current size of the pot and the cost of a contemplated call. They help poker players make decisions based on the potential return on investment (ROI) of continuing in a hand. By comparing the odds of completing a drawing hand with the potential payout, players can determine whether it’s a profitable decision to stay in the hand.
It doesn’t make sense to put any money into the pot if you won’t recoup it later. Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you will lose, but on average, you need to recoup your investment. So we are referring here to the long-term expected value of a call rather than the immediate result.
Pot odds are essentially a Risk/Reward calculation. By examining the size of the bet relative to the pot, you can calculate exactly how often you need to win to justify calling. We weigh the risk against the reward to find the breakeven point.
Calculating Pot Odds
To calculate pot odds, you’ll need two pieces of information: the size of the pot and the cost of your next call (the bet from your opponent that you need to match to stay in the hand). Here’s the formula:
- Pot Odds = Pot size (Actual Pot + Bet) / Cost of your Call
For example, if the pot contains $100, and your opponent bets $25, your pot odds would be calculated as follows:
Pot Odds = (100 + $25) / $25 = 5 or expressed as 5:1
This ratio, read as “5 to 1”, tells you that for every $1 you invest (your call), there is $4 in the pot.
Calculating required equity as a percentage
Some players prefer to calculate the equity percentage required to continue in the hand, instead of a ratio. This way they can compare that equity to the probability to hitting your draws. This would be expressed this way:
- Required Equity to call = Cost of Your Call / Final Pot size (Pot + villain bet + your call)
Using the above example:
Required Equity to call = $25 / ($100 + $25 +$25) = 1/6 or 16,7%
Obviously, we’d want to win more often than that 16,7% of the time, but we cannot justify calling if we win less than 16,7% of the time and want to recoup the $25 investment we made.
We can also use the following formula to convert that equity to odds: Convert it to fraction and the numerator is subtracted from the denominator.
From the example, we change it to a fraction notation, in this case 1/6, then 1 is subtracted from 6 to get 5. The resulting ratio is 5:1.
POT ODDS TABLE
Here we condense in a single table all the most common sizes used in Omaha cash games, where the players can only make a maximum of a pot size bet.
The first column is the facing bet size from a villain, the second column is the pot odds we are given, and the last column is the required equity to make the call.
Understanding Implied Odds
While pot odds are essential, they don’t account for future bets. To make more informed decisions, players often consider “implied odds.” Implied odds factor in potential future bets, which can significantly affect the profitability of a call. If you believe your opponent will continue to bet on future streets if you hit your drawing hand, it may be worth calling even if the immediate pot odds don’t seem favorable.
Example 1: Pot Odds in Action
Let’s say you’re playing Omaha, and you have a draw to a flush after the flop is A♠ 9♠ 2♦. Your hand is K♠ Q♠ J♣ T♣ and the pot is $60, and your opponent bets $20. To calculate your pot odds, you need to calculate the fraction of the pot your opponent is using:
Pot Odds = ($60 + $20) / $20 = 4:1
Equity = $20 / ($60 + $20 + $20) = 20%
Now, you need to compare these odds to your odds of completing the flush by the river. With nine spades left in the deck and 47 unknown cards (52 cards total minus your four and the flop), your odds of hitting a spade are approximately 9/47 or roughly 19%.
If your pot odds (4:1) are greater than your drawing odds (19%), it’s a profitable call. In this case, your equity to call is 20% so you can barely justify making the call.
This is where Implied pot odds, or simply implied odds, comes to help you. They are calculated the same way as pot odds, but take into consideration estimated future betting. Those implied odds can be used in situations where the player expects to fold in the following round if the draw is missed, thereby losing no additional bets, but expects to gain additional bets when the draw is completed. Since the player expects to always gain additional bets in later rounds when the draw is made, and never lose any additional bets when the draw is missed, the extra bets that the player expects to gain, excluding his own, can be somewhat added to the current size of the pot. It’s important to note that if a player is all-in, he can no longer get additional bets and therefore he couldn’t use implied odds.
Pot odds are a fundamental concept in poker that can help you make more informed decisions at the table. By calculating pot odds and considering implied odds, you can determine whether it’s profitable to continue in a hand or fold. Mastering this concept takes practice and experience, but it’s a crucial step towards becoming a successful poker player. Remember that pot odds are just one tool in your poker strategy toolbox, and they should be used in conjunction with other skills and information to make the best decisions at the poker table.
Pot odds alone (pot size / call size) may not justify a call, but you can factor in the implied odds. If you estimate that your opponent will call a significant bet on the turn or river if you hit your draw, you might make the call based on the potential future winnings.