Reverse Implied Odds Explained

Sol Bergren

When you're facing a bet on the flop, calling does not mean the end of the hand. There are, clearly, two more critical streets to play.

If you have a marginal hand that wants to see a showdown, the "reverse implied odds" of these future streets can end up costing you a lot of money.

After you call the flop bet, the turn and river are yet to be played, and your opponent may choose to bet one or both of those streets.

Those future streets can be estimated using implied odds and reverse implied odds.

When you have a drawing hand you benefit from the later streets of betting. You may not be getting the immediate pot odds to make your call worthwhile, but because of the implied odds of the two remaining streets, you can make that unprofitable call profitable.

Reverse implied odds work in the opposite way. Say you have a good but not great hand, with little hope of improving, and you're up against an opponent who has a hand that's either already better than yours or likely to be better than yours by the river.

Those implied rounds of betting could end up costing you a good deal of money.

Dominated Hands and You

As much as implied odds help you with suited connectors and small pocket pairs, reverse implied odds hurt you just as much with potentially dominated hands.

When you hit the flop with your dominated hand, it may look good to you. There is a chance you have the best hand now, but it might end up costing you more than you'd hoped to find out.

Let's take a look at an example.

$1/$2 game online, six-max; $200 effective stacks. An aggressive TAG raises from the button to $8 and you make the call in the BB with K J.

The flop comes 3 K 4. You check and he bets $13. You call.

Martin Elkher
Reverse implied odds: as ugly as Ed Hardy hats.

Now, you have top pair with a good kicker. Your hand very well could be best now and if your opponent was all-in for the $13, it would be the easiest call you ever make. But the hand isn't over ...

The turn comes 5. Your opponent bets $30 and you decide to call. You figure if your hand was best on the flop, nothing has changed, so you call again.

The river comes 5. Your opponent bets $55 and you decide to call.

You figure you are too pot-committed, and maybe your opponent is bluffing, so you talk yourself into calling again.

He tables A K and is shipped the $197 pot.

As you can see, your dominated hand ran into the problem of the reverse implied odds. Unfortunately for you, there were more streets than just the flop, and your savvy opponent exercised his right to bet every single one of them.

Because your opponent is in position, he may choose to shut down on the later streets when he feels he is beat. So when you are right you end up winning a small pot and when you are wrong you lose a substantially bigger one.

Good but Not Great Hands on Dangerous Boards

Another problem you run into is when you have a hand that has little chance of improving and your opponent either already has you crushed or has a high likelihood of making a better hand than you by the river.

An example is a weakish top pair on an extremely draw-y board.

Like so: $1/$2 game online, six-max. $400 effective stacks. You have A J in the big blind.

A player from late position raises to $6 and you reraise to $20. He makes the call and the flop comes J T 9.

You bet $30 and he raises to $65.

Now what do you do? Your hand may be best now, but the board is very draw-y and if he is doing this as a semi-bluff, you may have to call off your entire stack to find out.

Ryan Young
When you find yourself in an RIO situation. Safer = better.

Again, if he happened to be all-in you could call with impunity because it would mean you could see a showdown without having to invest any more money.

But it doesn't work like that. You're 200BB deep - if you call this bet, there may be another big bet following it up on the turn or river.

So what can you do? Half of the deck is a scare card for you and there's almost no safe way of continuing if you smooth-call.

That leaves pushing all-in or folding. If you shove you're never going to be called by worse, so you are better off just folding to the flop raise!

RIO and You

Looking at the two examples it should be obvious to you why getting into RIO situations is detrimental to your poker health. But they cannot be avoided, so it is best to figure out how to identify them and avoid getting wrapped up in large pots when they occur.

Though it seems like any play you can make in a reverse implied odds situation sucks, usually the safest play is the one that sucks the least.

Choosing the safer line and folding in bad reverse implied odds spots will save you far more money than you make when you call and are right.

Start looking for spots where your decent hand has a small chance of improving versus an opponent who either has a better hand or will have better by the river, and just avoid them.

Your win rate will never be more grateful.

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