Poker is essentially a numbers game. Although many athletes acknowledge mathematics’ significance, few make the effort to improve their skills. The good news is that the arithmetic involved in poker is usually quite elementary. If you put forth the effort to master certain fundamentals, you will have a huge advantage over your competition.
To calculate the pot odds, simply divide the amount you stand to win by the amount you are risking. If you have to call a $20 wager and stand to win $40, your pot odds are 40:20, or 2:1.
It’s literally that easy. What do we know?
Poker Odds Calculation
To recap, the pot odds are the expected value of the pot divided by the initial bet. The pot size and the amount needed to call are two factors that must be taken into account when calculating pot odds in online poker. Take a look at this illustration:
Envision yourself at a $1/2 NL Holdem table. You’re at a late position on the turn, facing off against a single early position opponent. The pot is now $10 and your opponent has bet $6. What are the odds in the pot?
Find out how big the pot is before you even consider playing. In this case, your opponent’s wager of $6 increased the pot from $10. So 10+6=16. There will be a $16 pot.
The following procedure is even easier. What are you willing to give up for a chance at the jackpot? Call in the sum of $6 here. Your risk is that.
Create your ratio by:
Estimated Cost of a 16-Quart Pot: $16
Risk = $6
16 to 6 on the Pot
The odds in the pot are 16 to 6. Divide the total prize money by the total stakes to get the standard form:
Dividing 16 by 6 yields 2.66
And then write that figure as a ratio:
If you’re feeling very ambitious, you can even convert your pot odds to percent form for ease of use:
1 / (1+2.66) = 27.3%
The percentage of times you must win to break even on this call is equal to your pot odds, or 27.3%.
In poker, I prefer not to think in terms of odds and percentages. I prefer to keep my use of ratios straightforward. However, I know that many readers prefer percentages, so I provided them. In the following paragraphs, I’ll discuss why I find ratios to be most useful.
The Real World of Pot Odds
Learn to use the pot odds to help you decide whether or not to make a call. You can do this by calculating the probabilities of winning the pot versus the odds of making your hand.
Let’s say you’re in late position with 6h7h in a $1/2 NL Holdem game. With the board showing 5d-10s-4d-Ac on the turn, your best straight draw is either a 3 or an 8. Similar to the last example, your opponent bets $6 into a pot of $10. Is it worth it to make a call here? Can you draw?
There are two approaches to deciding if you need to sketch.
This is the hard way:
You have 8 remaining chances to win, and there are 46 cards left in the deck (52 minus 6). Of the remaining 46 cards, only 8 will help you, while the other 38 will hurt you. As a result, the likelihood of you making a straight is 38:8, or 4.75:1. You may roughly estimate your hand’s equity by translating this into a percentage form:
Wins / Number of Tests = Equity
1 / (4.75 + 1) = 17.39%
A straight on the river is possible in 17.39% of hands. In the last example, we evaluated the pot odds and found that your hand would need to win 27.3 percent of the time to make your call profitable. If the odds of making the hand are lower than what the pot is offering, you should fold.
This approach takes more work to master, but it’s useful because it can be applied in a wide variety of contexts. You can calculate your chances of catching a card that improves your hand by knowing the total number of such cards.
The simple way:
My preference for ratios stems from their simplicity. Memorizing the odds of a few of the most common draws is easier than estimating your chances based on the number of outs. However, this approach has its limitations due to its lack of adaptability. The more laborious approach must be used if an uncommon drawing circumstance arises.
Let’s keep going with the preceding example. Suppose you have the same straight draw and are now waiting your turn. The main difference is that you have learned some of the most frequent drawings by heart. You are aware that the next card has about a 5:1 chance of completing a straight draw.
Just check that number against the odds in the pot. Our odds in the pot were 2.66 to 1, as you’ll recall. Your drawing odds are better than your pot odds right now. The best move is still to fold.
Probabilities of finishing common draws with the next card:
Odds of winning for a Flush are about 5:1, for an Open End Straight about 4:1, for a Gutshot Straight about 11:1, for a Two Pair or Better to a Full House also about 11:1, and for an Open End Straight Flush about 2:1.
The Logic Behind It All
When I was in school, I was always one of those students who asked “why?” a lot. The idea that pot odds can inform you whether or not it’s lucrative to chase a draw is, to put it mildly, puzzling. Let’s look at an example to see how this works.
You’re back in the same $10 pot with a straight draw on the turn. Their bet is $6. The next illustration will use a trial run of 100 iterations to demonstrate why pursuing this sketch is unprofitable in the long term. If you found yourself in this circumstance a hundred times during your career, you could notice the following.
About 75 times out of 100, you won’t make the draw, costing you $450 ($6 x 75).
You can expect to win $400 ($16 x 25 times) if you play your draw regularly.
Cash flow negative $50
Knowing the pot odds in poker is therefore important.