Pot Odds

January 13, 2010 |

When playing poker there are multiple factors that can come into play when making a decision within a poker hand. One of those factors is known as ‘pot odds’. Pot odds definition can be defined as: The ratio of the present size of the pot to the cost of a potential call. Some players base their decisions off the feel of the game and strictly play instinct. While there is nothing wrong with going with your gut, adding the ability to calculate pot odds gives the player more ways to process the hand. Pot odds are a great source to have when trying to decide whether or not to chase flush or straight draws as well. Whether we are playing cash or tournament poker, pot odds are a great tool for poker players to use when faced with tough decisions. Let’s dig a little deeper into the world of ’pot odds’.

Like I said earlier pot odds are a great way to judge if a call is worth making to hit straight or flush draws. Pot odds aren’t strictly for flush or straight draws, but sometimes players can give you the pot odds to hit any particular card you need to win the hand. Let me give you an example of a hand to show you what pot odds can do. Let’s say you are holding a suited AK of spades. The flop comes Q 8 2 with two spades on board and there is currently $20 in the pot. This is the time we have to calculate the cards that can come that will ultimately guarantee victory for our hand. With 4 spades showing (2 in our hand and 2 on the flop) we know that there are 9 spades left in the deck and 38 non-spades left in the deck. Thus the chances for a spade to come on the turn is 38/9 which will simplify down to 4.2:1 (4:1).

This means if we were faced with this decision four different times then a spade should come at least one time. Now going back to the decision of making the call. Though an option is to raise and most poker players would probably do so, I want to simplify this hand as best I can. The pot was $20 and let’s say our opponent bet $5 making the total pot $25. We have to call $5 to win said pot of $25. The ratio for our call is 5:1. That being said let’s do a quick recap of everything. The ratio for our call is 5:1 and the odds of hitting a spade on the turn is set at 4:1. Thus it justifies our call to ‘chase’ the draw, because our pot odds out weigh the odds of a spade coming on the turn. If our opponent would have bet $10 on the flop our pot odds would only be 3:1. If this were the situation then a call would NOT be justified, because the ratio of hitting a spade is still set at 4:1. Knowing the pot odds can help ease the pain of tough decisions at the poker table and I hope this helps. I hope I didn’t confuse anyone either.

Now I realize that since were holding AK on Q 8 2 board, then we may have more than 9 spades to win the hand. If an A or K hit we could possibly win the hand as well. For the purpose of the article I wanted to shy away from the situation, but remember to factor in other possible outs. Take into account pot odds the next time you sit down to play and see what kind of difference they can make for your poker game. Good luck at the table everybody.

Craig Fleck

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