Poker is all about decision making. Constantly and consistently. Poker Math also plays an important role when it’s your chance to decide whether to call, raise or fold. Poker Math involves something called pot odds, learning the basics of which will help you in making better decisions on every street.
In layman’s terms, pot odds is the ratio between what you have to gain in a hand of poker and what you’ll have to spend in order to take it. It basically refers to the ratio between your reward and your risk when you have to make a decision.
HOW TO CALCULATE POT ODDS
Let’s take a simple example. Imagine that there are ₹80 in the pot and your opponent bets another ₹20, making the total pot ₹100. Pot Odds is the ratio between your reward(₹100) and your risk(₹20 to call the bet).
In this situation, you’re having to risk ₹20 in order to take down a pot of ₹100, so your pot odds are 100-to-20 which can be simplified to 5-to-1. Taking the same example, imagine that instead of calling ₹20, you decide to raise your opponent ₹80 making the total pot ₹180.
This means that your opponent now has to call another ₹60 in order to take down a pot of ₹180 making the pot odds 180-to-60 or 3-to-1. Anyone who can do basic mathematics can easily understand this concept. But the real question is why would you actually calculate pot odds? How does it help you?
One big reason why you want to stay generally aware of what your pot odds are — which means keeping track of how big the pot is at all times and being able to compare the pot size to each bet — is that doing so helps you estimate whether or not the pot odds being offered to you are favorable or unfavorable given the situation.
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Let’s take up some common situations where pot odds can be helpful to you in making the correct decision.
Imagine that you are drawing to a flush with K♥️10♥️ and the board is: A♥️8♥️6♦️2♣️. There is ₹120 in the pot and your opponent bets ₹60. You could make the call and see whether or not you hit the flush. But is it favourable enough for you to make that call?
The reward is ₹180(120+60) and you are risking ₹60 giving you a 180-to-60 or 3-to-1 pot odds. You think that only a flush will be able to beat your opponent’s hand. This means that you have 9 outs(the remaining ♥️ in the deck).
You have information about 6 cards (two in your hand and 4 on the board). So you know that you have a 9 out of 46 chance of hitting your ♥️, making it a little higher than 4-to-1. Compare this to your current pot odds(3:1). It is very clear that this is not a favourable call, the pot odds aren’t favourable for making this call.
Let’s say you were to make this call 100 times. You’ll end up hitting your straight around 20 times(a little less but we’ll round it up). You’d be risking ₹60 x 100 or ₹6,000. But your reward would only be ₹180 x 20 or ₹3,600. After making this call 100 times and winning only 20 hands, you’d have lost ₹2,400! (Remember that all this is only about the decision on the turn. We are not considering any actions made after the river).
Pot odds are favorable when they are greater than the odds against making your hand. If the pot odds were 5-to-1 here, it would be a good call with it being just over 4-to-1 against making the flush. But 3-to-1 pot odds are unfavorable when drawing one card to make a flush.
Using Pot Odds Pre Flop
You can use pot odds not only for specific probabilities but also for a general estimate of your chances of being ahead in a hand. For example, imagine that you are playing no limit hold’em and the blinds are ₹1/₹2. You have J♠️5♠️. The button raises ₹7 and the action folds to you.
Your pot odds right now are: ₹10 in the middle(small blind + big blind + ₹7) and you have to call ₹5 to stay in the pot, making your pot odds 2-to-1. Now think about playing a hand like J♠️5♠️ out of position. Your hand is almost certainly worse than the button’s opening range. Unless you flop a flush draw, a two pair or trips, you’re not likely to continue with your hand for too long.
So are your pot odds, 2-to-1, favourable? No, they are not. We can quantify this in the sense that with two suited cards you flop a flush draw about 11% of the time, you flop two pair about 2% of the time, and you flop trips about 1.3% of the time — that adds up to around 14% good flops, meaning it’s worse than 6-to-1 against your seeing a good flop.
That’s just an estimate, but is obviously way worse than the 2-to-1 pot odds, so folding is in order. What if a player raises to ₹7 from early position and five other players including the small blind call before the action reaches you in the big blind with your J♠️5♠️? Now there’s ₹44 in the middle and you have to pay ₹5 to see the flop.
Those are almost 8-to-1 pot odds, which are in fact greater than the odds against your flopping something good — you might consider calling.
Using Pot Odds To Catch A Suspected Bluff
Pot odds can also be helpful when you suspect that your opponent might be bluffing. Imagine that you have reached the river with a hand like 10♣️10♠️ and the board is 2♣️6♠️Q♥️7♥️7♦️. You have called your opponents bets pre-flop, on the flop and on the turn. Now there’s ₹100 in the pot and he bets again for ₹50, giving you a 3-to-1 pot odds to make the call.
You strongly suspect that he could be bluffing, but you think it’s possible he might have something like aces, kings, jacks, ace-queen, or king-queen and have you beat. While it’s not feasible to calculate exactly the likelihood of whether he’s bluffing, you might be able to make a rough estimate. Say, that he’s probably bluffing at least a third of the time here.
That would make it 2-to-1 against your 10♣️10♠️ being best, making 3-to-1 pot odds favorable for you and a profitable call to make.
Pot odds can be used for a lot of things in No Limit Hold’em but you won’t be able to take advantage of them until you become used to calculating pot odds as a hand is being played out. This is easier to do while playing online poker, where the betting amounts and pot sizes are shown as numbers.
But even when playing live, you can, with practice, become increasingly at ease keeping track of what’s in the pot and calculating pot odds until it becomes almost natural to you. And once you do, you can then use pot odds to help direct your decision-making in a variety of contexts.