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How to calculate pot odds

Article By: RuffPoker.com

Working out pot odds is a key component of successful poker play. Knowing when to fold, call and raise is obviously the essence of poker, but knowing how much is worth the call, how much is of value to raise makes for a profitable time at the tables. This said, how to calculate pot odds requires mathematical calculation, and this scares people away. Many players, especially at lower limits just ignore pot odds, and as a result feed the table with chips unnecessarily. Do not do this, at any level of poker. How to calculate pot odds is much simpler than many people think.

Basically to calculate pot odds you need to start by comparing the total number of unknown cards with how many outs you have. i.e. how many cards improve or make your hand. For example you are dealt Q/J and the flop comes 10/3/9. As a result your outs are either a K or an 8, giving you a straight. There are four K’s and four 8’s in the deck so your outs equal eight. To calculate the percentage of you hitting one of these cards you then multiply this number by 2 and add 1. This gives you a 17% chance of hitting a K or 8 on the turn. Once you have this percentage chance of ‘hitting’ you can work out the pot odds to determine whether to fold, call or raise by adding together the pot and current bet. For example, if the pot stands at $9, and the current bet to call is $1 that is $9 + $1 = $10. You know you have a 17% chance of hitting and the pot+bet is $10. Therefore it is worth a call at $1 because 1/10 = 10% which is less than the 17% chance of hitting your out. To take this in the other direction, if the current bet is $2, that means you are putting in 20%, making your 17% chance of hitting not worth the risk.

This is a simple equation, in poker there are hundreds of far more complicated scenarios. For example what about trying to work out pot odds when you are looking at the river for a flush, straight, trips or two pair. In any instance the method is the same. Calculate your ‘outs’, add the pot to the current bet, work out the pot odds

Taking another example, you are one card away from a flush on the turn. There are 46 unknown cards of which 9 are of the suit you want and 37 are not. That gives you 37/9 which is just over a 1 in 4 chance of hitting. The pot stands at $20 and the current bet is $3, so the pot odds are well worth making the call. i.e. a $3 call for a 4/1 shot stands up well as the pot is at 8x that of the chips you are putting in.

Taking one final example, an inside straight draw at the river, looks good to a novice player until you consider that of the unknown cards only 4 give you the straight. That’s 46/4 which equals 11.5. In this instance you need to have over 11x the amount in the pot above the required bet to make it a viable call situation. That is not a likely scenario, particularly at lower stakes tables which are passive but also loose. Meaning very few times do pots reach these levels.

Of course there are more complicated pot odds scenarios, dictated by the stage of the hand, i.e. pre/post flop, turn or river, as with every card that is known and with every bet that is placed the ‘hit’ probability and pot odds change dramatically. What might seem like a real chore when you are trying to play a sociable game of poker is very important. Don’t skip pot odds, calculating them accurately can make or break your balance. Especially when you are in the middle of a big hand with a large pot and the clock is ticking. Don’t just do as many do and stick in a pot sized bet, or call without considering your outs. It is hugely advantageous to think about pot odds and means you play your chips in the correct way. Don’t hang on to those unprofitable hands that feed chips into the pot with few out possibilities, work out what is the correct call and save yourself a lot of money.