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.

More intermediate strategy articles:

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About Daniel Skolovy

Daniel Skolovy started out in the gaming industry as a lowly dealer, spending countless graveyard shifts dealing blackjack, pai gow, carribean stud, baccarat, etc. He quickly became bored dealing games that were so obviously weighted in the house's favor.

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Luke 2011-07-02 19:46:41

When we hold Aj in that spot using card elimination he can definatley have kq combo and has good implied odds to set mine in pos to our three bet 200bb deep - when we play in 3 bet pots tp tk goes down in value out of pos, we lose the ability to pot control and are forced to c bet to see where we stand - there are so many ugly turn cards that can hurt our range ie a King or queen an 8 or seven - this board texture smacks his calling range in the face i think weaker hands like A rag and K x he would have four bet pre or folded - We do understand that players go aggro with draws even still AhQd has 43.7% equity on this flop against our AJ off suit this is an easy C F spot 200 bb deep - even 100 bb deep - Unless you know he is capable of bluffing this board texture whilst this deep with say 55 or 66 Worse AX hands - The Aj 3 bet pre is more of a bluff weighted hand then value hand so our play was to win the hand pre flop and play optimally post flop given a better boar texture.

Ian Parker 2009-10-21 17:24:00

Well, I think that I have to agree with the page. The reason is, the flop here is a "3 str/2flu" first of all which means: get info/steal and/or slow down. So he called your pre-flop re-raise here first of all. Yes, he may have been on a steal in late pos and felt he could outplay you or hit a flop. There is a major situational info gap here too. But none the less, why is he playing back here? Most people would bet the semi if they raised prefop but not really re-raise there. Also, you can't improve easily and there are ALOT of hands that even with the opponent in a late pos., could have you totally screwed. The flop just fits way to many hands in it. Also, yes Aaron, the steal is ideal here but they(the hero in this scenario) tried that with the bet already and it didn't work by them getting played back at here. This is why I mention the situational gap. Against a bad player, I might put them in the neighborhood of bad pot odds with a re-raise or all in if I thought they were on a semi here. But that board in particular is not going to happen that often, so I figure, when there is a 3 straight/2flush and this happens, I would rather pick a better spot here. You figured you were probably a favorite pre-flop but it just raped your jack with the 2 consecutive undercards there.

Jvan 2009-09-08 19:02:00

you arent wrong but you arent always going to win by doing that. Alot of players online play draws very aggressively. 60% of the time the guy will call and see whats up.

Aaron 2009-07-21 07:40:00

IMHO I disagree with your analysis. I would shove all in to force out the draws. There is close to 100 bbs in the pot. Stealing here is very good. I agree flat-calling is not the way to go because your opponent can hit (or represent) a lot of big hands. I don't understand why you would leave yourself so susceptible to someone reraising what looks like a continuation bet which may have completely missed the flop. Especially at these low levels, I respectfully disagree with your decision. I'd love to hear the tons of reasons why I am wrong.