How to Apply Poker Odds

Oct 25 2012 |

Last week we discussed how to quickly calculate the poker odds of making your hand after the flop. This was an important lesson, but in and of itself, it doesn’t add much value to your game unless you know how to apply it in practice.

Poker is simplified to a total of four possible actions you can take – check, call, raise (bet) or fold. Poker odds can greatly help you take the right decision.

The first thing you need to do is calculate “bet percentage”. This is not very complicated. You compare two numbers: 1. Bet size and 2. Pot size.


This formula essentially gives you the money you need to put in compared to the total amount of money in the pot. Now, all you have to do is compare the Pot Odds (bet percentage) to your Hand Odds (hand percentage – which you calculate using your outs, as you learned last week).

pot odds in poker front image

If your hand odds are higher than the pot odds, the probability of making your hand offers positive value relative to the amount of money you are risking. You need to call (or raise) in this situation. If you hand odds are lower, you fold. That’s all there is to it. Let’s consider an example to make this clearer.

You have A-J of clubs and the flop comes Kc-2c-9h. Let’s say there is $40 in the pot from before the flop. The first player bets $20 and three players call. Now is your turn to decide. You have a flush draw. From last week, that is nine outs, or about 18% chance to hit a club on the turn. The total pot is now $120 and you need put in $20. From our formula above, your pot odds are $20/$140, or 1/7. Even without calculating that this is exactly 14.3%, you can tell that it is less than 18%. Your hand odds are higher than your pot odds. If you base your decision solely on math, you have to call or raise, definitely not fold.

pot odds in poker front image

Let’s consider another example. You have the same A-J of clubs, but the flop comes Kh-Qd-5s this time. The same betting occurs and action is to you. A 10 will make your straight, so you have a gut-shot draw. That is 4 outs, so your hand odds percentage is 8% in this position. You need to face pot odds percentage lower than 8% to make a call, and this is very rare (essentially you need someone betting a very small amount into a big pot, which is not what good players usually do). From the example above, you can quickly tell that 1/7 is higher than 8%, so you muck your hand.

At first glance it might look like quite a bit of effort mathematically. Don’t be discouraged. As you get more experienced, most of the common situations will become second nature to you and you will be able to very quickly estimate your odds and make the right decisions.

poker flash cardsNow you have the basics of poker math under your belt. Just remember, not every decision should or can be based on odds. Look at it as just another weapon in your poker arsenal.

For more real-practice scenarios that will help the math come more quickly, check out our Hand Odds and Pot Odds flash card decks.

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