Pot odds is one of the most neglected aspects of Texas Holdem poker, especially by the beginner and intermediate player. Some poker beginners have heard the term and a few even have a basic concept of what pot odds are, but very few of these players know how to put them to good use in a poker game.
However knowing how to calculate and use pot odds is one of the crucial weapons that serious poker players have in their armory, one that most definitely separates them from the amateur.
Poker pot odds are often associated with complex mathematical calculations and the less serious player can feel overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling such a subject, but don’t fret, do you really think that to be a serious poker player you need to be a genius at mathematics? Do you think all the poker pros are?
Well of course the answer is that they are most definitely not all geniuses, but what they do have is a method of calculating the odds quickly and easily to see if they are in their favor in any given situation.
So let’s look at a simple, basic way of calculating the odds, remember it needs to be quick and easy so that it can be worked out quickly and accurately in the heat and pressure of a poker game.
Poker pot odds can be broken down to this simple one liner:
“If the odds of you getting the card you need to make your hand are less than the pot odds, you should bet.”
There are two sides to this equation which I will try and explain, “odds of you getting the card you need” and “pot odds.” Firstly “odds of you getting the card you need”, this one is fairly easy to understand. It’s best explained using the example of a flush or straight draw, so we’ll use a straight draw to illustrate it.
You’re in a Texas Holdem game and your pocket cards are Q T, the flop is J 4 9. In order to make a straight you need to get either a King or 8 on the turn or river so you have eight possible cards that can make your hand, four Kings and four 8s. These are known as your “out” cards.
You’ve seen five cards out of the deck, your own two pocket cards and the three flop cards. That means there’s 47 cards you haven’t seen. So the odds of you getting the card you need are:
Cards that won’t help you : Cards that will help you
Out of the 47 remaining cards, eight of them will help you and 35 won’t, so the “odds of you getting the card you need” are 35:8 or 4.375:1.
Now for the pot odds.
The basic formula is:
The size of the pot : Amount you need to put into the pot.
So if the pot is sitting at $100 and you need to bet $20 to call, your pot odds are 100:20 or 5:1.
In this case the pot odds (5:1) are bigger than the odds of you getting the card you need (4.375:1) so you should call the bet. This is known as getting "value" for your bet. If you are doing these sums quickly you can think of 35:8 as being about four and a half to one, it’s good enough for a quick calculation.
This is a simplification of pot odds and there are other considerations like – will the players after you in the round of betting add to the pot? This would make your bet an even better proposition as it would increase the pot odds but it is of course an unknown factor.
Understand pot odds and you will take your game forward to the next stage and prepare yourself for the poker big league.
Article by Ian McIntosh of Love Texas Holdem. Check out the site for all the latest information on Texas Holdem tournaments and Online Poker Freerolls. Please feel free to use this poker article on your website, newsletter or blog as long as this resource box is left intact and there's a live link to the site.
Sharpen up your pot odds skills at Full Tilt Poker