Understanding and calculating the pot odds, though, will only get you halfway to where you need to be.
Once you have the odds (and the implied odds), you need to calculate your equity in the pot and then compare the two to see what the correct play is in each situation.
What are Pot Odds?
Pot odds refers to the relationship between the size of the pot and the size of the bet.
For example: If there's $10 in the pot and you have to call a $2 bet, then you are getting pot odds of 5-1. If you have to call a $5 bet in the same $10 pot, you're getting pot odds of 2-1.
How big is the pot; how big is the bet?
The Size of the Pot
You should always be aware of pot size. If you're playing Limit poker, you count the number of bets in the pot instead of the amount of money.
When the bets double, as in Hold'em, you count the big bets as two small bets.
If you're playing Pot-Limit or No-Limit it's a little bit harder to count the pot and, as a result, the odds will not be as exact.
Regardless, you still should do it.
How to Use Pot Odds
Once you know your pot odds you must use this information appropriately. You do this by connecting the pot odds to the value of your hand.
This means you are able to put your opponents on likely hands and understand your chances of making a better hand than theirs.
For example, you have a flush draw on the flop in Hold'em and you are up against an opponent who you think has at least top pair.
There are 9 cards (usually referred to as outs) that will give you a flush when you have flopped four cards to a flush.
As you can see in the table below, 9 outs give you a 35% chance (2:1 against) of making the flush on the turn and river combined.
This means that you need pot odds of at least 2-1 to make a call on the flop profitable.
Implied odds are defined as the relationship between the size of the current pot and the pot you are expected to win.
This means that occasionally the pot does not lay the correct odds even when you decide to play because you expect to get further action and win more when you hit your hand.
Implied odds changes things.
For example, in Limit Hold'em your opponent bets $20 into an $80 pot and your call gives you pot odds of 5-1 (you're risking $20 to win $100).
But, if you expect your opponent to call a bet or raise on the river if you make your hand, your implied odds are 6-1 or 7-1.
A Simple Rule of Thumb for Hold'em and Omaha
Every out gives you an approximate 4% chance of hitting on the turn and river combined.
For example, five outs give you about a 20% chance of improving. Six outs = about 24%, etc.
|Specific Draws in Hold'em and Omaha||Outs|
|Flush draw with two overcards or a straight flush draw||15 outs|
|Flush draw with one overcard||12 outs|
|Flush draw||9 outs|
|Open-ended straight draw||8 outs|
|Two overcards||6 outs|
|Gut-shot straight draw||4 outs|
Do I Need a Pots Odds Calculator?
If you dropped in on this article looking for a Pot Odds Calculator, there are a few simple ones out there online but the truth is you have all the tools you need to calculate pot odds right in your head.
In fact it's much better for your game long term to learn the quick shortcuts and how to calculate pot odds in your head on the fly; it's not like you can pull out and use a pot odds calculator at the poker table anyway.
How to Calculate Poker Equity
Count Your Outs: In order to calculate your equity (your odds of winning the pot), you need to first know how many outs you have to make your hand. This becomes quick and simple with a little practice and a little memorization.
Remember: There are four cards of every value and 13 of every suit.
If you have an open-ended straight draw there are two different values of cards that will give you your hand:
- 2*4= 8 outs
If you have a flush draw there are 13 cards of that suit. You hold two of them and two of them are on the board:
- 13 - 2 - 2 = 9 outs
Remember to remove the outs of cards you know (on the board and in your hand) and to not count outs twice (for example, if you have an open-ended straight flush draw you have 15 outs).
When counting your outs you need to remember the idea of anti-outs (and possibly even blockers). If by making your straight you also complete the flush of your opponent, then those straight cards are not outs to your hand and can't be counted as such.
The possibility of a flush draw on the board can turn a profitable eight-out straight draw into a six-out straight draw, rendering your odds insufficient. More about Anti-Outs and Blockers here.
If you can't make an astute deduction of the value of your opponent's hands, err on the side of caution and always assume that they have the hand most dangerous to your own.
If there's a flush draw, assume they have the draw; if the board is paired, assume they have a full house or, if you're lucky, just trips. It's less expensive to wrongly fold a hand than to wrongly call off your whole stack.
The Easy Equity Shortcut
Equity shortcut is indispensable in live action.
The easiest way to get your equity is to remember these two simple rules:
- On the flop, multiply your outs by four
- On the turn, multiply your outs by two
This means with an open-ended straight draw (eight outs) you have a 32% chance of making your straight with two cards left to come.
For hands on the flop with a large number of outs (>8), the previous shortcut gives a slightly incorrect answer. There's a simple formula you can remember to get a slightly more accurate figure:
- (number of outs * 4) - (number of outs - 8) = Equity
This means the equity of an open-ended straight flush draw (15 outs) would be:
- (15 * 4) - (15 - 8) = 53%
Without this little formula the percentage would be higher by seven points, giving us an artificially large result. If your equity calculations are wrong you can't make informed decisions.
Putting Pot Odds and Equity Together
As you can see, equity and pot odds hang on a bunch of relatively simple calculations. All that they require is some memorization of the formulas and techniques and a little bit of practice calculating them in your head.
For some people this will be much easier than for others but everyone can do it if they spend a small amount of time practicing.
Remember that implied odds change the game of No-Limit Hold'em greatly. In fact, having a very large amount of implied odds can render a call correct even though pot odds would render it absolutely incorrect.
To learn more about implied odds and how they can affect the choices of you and your opponents check out this Implied Odds article here. For another method of calculating your equity in a pot - one you may find easier - you can check out this Equity article.
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