Many weekend warrior types of poker players, the non-professional majority of people who enjoy the game, do not know the truly important skill of calculating and comparing Hand Odds and Pot Odds to make the most educated decision at the table. Knowing and applying this skill is critical, but learning it can be confusing and challenging.
This blog post is only going to skim the surface, and might even leave you scratching your head. I recommend Color Up’s Poker Flash Cards to learn and practice this very important, and often confusing, skill. Color Up has two decks of Poker Flash Cards that target this skill: Hand Odds and Pot Odds. The format of Poker Flash Cards is to teach you in scaffolded segments with simple mathematical equations, and then apply those lessons to Situational Practice, all within a 52-card deck.
A Quick Lesson on Pot Odds:
Pot odds are defined as the ratio between the size of the current pot and the amount of money needed to call. For example, if we are facing a $4 bet and the pot is currently $12 (which includes the $4 bet), we are getting 3-1 odds to call.
Calculating odds requires very simple math knowledge. You take the amount of money in the pot and divide by the amount of the bet you must call. This is very easy to do, and it is one of the most important factors when making a decision to call or fold.
To make it this easier (and I use this term loosely, as for a beginner to odds it can be overwhelming) to understand in a game setting let’s use an example. Let's say we have 4 to a flush and are facing a bet of $10. The pot contains $20, including the bet we are facing. Since making a flush is 3-1 or 36% on the flop (our hand odds), we know that we need at least 3-1 odds to make a correct call.
Now determine the odds we are getting to make this call. We divide the pot by the amount of money needed to call. In this case 20/10=2. We are only getting 2-1 odds to make this call. Since we are not getting the right odds to call, we must fold our hand. Remember, our pot odds must be equal to or greater than our hand odds to make it worth it.
There is one other factor in making our decisions. This is called implied odds. Implied odds are the amount of money that our opponent has left in his stack that we could potentially win.
Using the above example we can calculate our implied odds. To do this we simply take the amount of money left in our opponent’s stack and divide it by the amount of money in the pot. In this case let's say our opponent has $100 left and the pot has $20. We are getting 10-1 implied odds ($100/$20=10 or 10-1). Since we know that making a flush is 3-1 and we are getting 10-1 implied odds, we can now make this call.
Implied odds are very different from direct odds since we are not positive that we will win all of our opponent’s money if we hit our hand. We can use implied odds when our opponents are loose aggressive, or we feel they have a very strong hand that will pay us off when we hit.
I want to stress that we should not be using implied odds to make our decision when facing a bet. If you are getting only 2-1 direct odds but 10-1 implied odds, it will not be correct to always call this bet. This is because, as I stated above, we are not guaranteed to win all of our opponent’s money. We need to make our best educated guess by using all the facts we know about our opponent. This is a skill that takes time to learn and perfect but will become an important tool in your arsenal.
Check out Color Up’s Poker Flash Cards to learn more about Hand Odds and Pot Odds, www.ColorUpCards.com. Learn, Practice, Play, Win!