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Poker Strategy - Pot Odds

Explanation and Calculating Pot Odds

When first learning the game of poker, it is in the best interest of a player to study and learn as many different basic strategies as possible. Strategies such as starting hands, position, betting, poker outs and pot odds are the first strategies a player should learn, as it will save them the most money and help put a buffer on their learning curve. Out of all of these strategies, pot odds will be one of the most important tools a player will learn how to use. And the reasoning for this is, is because this tool can be combined with the knowledge of counting outs and expected value so that a player can make an educated play that is based on the likelihood of them catching one of their outs verses how much they will pay to try and do so. So, what are pot odds? Well, in a nutshell pot odds is the amount of money that is currently in the pot in comparison to how much a player will have to pay to potentially win that pot. To put this into perspective, a few different examples have been provided below.

Examples of Calculating Pot Odds

For this example Player A, Player B, Player C, and Player D have all just been dealt cards in a $100/$200 Texas Hold'em ring game with Player A on the small blind and Player B on the big blind. Player C decides to fold, Player D limps in for $200, Player A calls for $100 more and Player B checks his option. There is a total of $600 in the pot and 3 players are going to see a flop. After seeing the flop Player A and Player B both decide to check their hands. Player C thinks for a moment and decides to put in a minimum bet of $200. Now, this is where most players will need to use the knowledge of pot odds. There is a total of $800 in the pot, $600 from pre-flop and the $200 from Player C and now Player A needs to decide if to make the call or not. What are the pot odds offering him? As we said above, pot odds are the money in the pot in comparison to what it takes to win the pot. So in this case, the pot odds look like this:

  • $800 in the pot to $200 to call

To make things easier, it is much better to simplify the odds. So this would actually be simplified to 4 to 1. After calculating the pot odds, Player A decides to make the call. Now there is $1,000 in the pot and it is Player B's turn to call. What are his odds?

  • $1,000 in the pot to $200 to call

And again, this is better simplified which would equal 5 to 1.

Pot Odds - How They Work

Hopefully by now it is pretty easy to understand how pot odds work. But now that that is out of the way, there are some key points to keep in mind about pot odds.

1. Pot odds are everywhere. If there is money in the pot and a player needs to call a bet to see the next card, be it pre-flop, flop, turn, or on the river, there are pot odds to calculate. Aside from outs, this is one of the first things to calculate, as it will determine your next step based on several factors such as outs, expected value, and implied odds.

2. Understand how odds work. It is important to realize that 2 to 1 pot odds are good, but 7 to 1 pot odds are way better. This is because a player is expecting to make more of a return on their investment. And furthermore, this is especially important to understand because the better (or higher) the odds that a player is getting, the more justified they are in chasing draws.

3. Pot odds and Betting are related. Using our example above, when Player D bet $200, he was giving Player A odds of 4 to 1 which are pretty decent odds. However, when Player A just simply called the bet as opposed to raising, he gave Player B even better odds of 5 to 1. Most times when there is a noticeable draw on the board and a player has a hand that can be beaten; they will want to raise the pot to an amount that does not offer attractive odds. On the other hand, if a player were to have a great hand that anyone else would have a hard time beating, then betting just low enough to offer odds is an employable tactic as well.

4. Learn about expected value. Do not stop at pot odds. It is important to learn about expected value as well as that will take a player's odds and compare them to what they hope to make in the long run should they chase certain draws. Having an understanding of this will save players so much money.

Poker Pot Odds

Although pot odds may seem just like another every day strategy, it is crucial to have an understanding of what they are, how they work, and how to use them against your opponents; or realize when they are using them against you. Once a player has an understanding of this, they can then start to realize when certain situations are profitable, or not profitable, and at the same time other strategies such as starting hands, counting outs, expected value, and implied odds will become much clearer.