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Successful Betting Using Pot Odds

By Gary Steele

You will find many strategy articles giving you advice on how to use Pot Odds to decide whether to stay in a pot or to fold. It is also a good idea to use Pot Odds to decide how much to bet in pot-limit and no-limit games.

You will want to make sure to check out the Pot Odds article to learn how to calculate your odds; this article is not going to explain how the actual calculations are done.

When using Pot Odds to decide whether to call a bet or not, you first find out your percentage chance of drawing the card you need to make a winning hand. Then you calculate what percentage of the total pot the bet you are being required to call is. If your percentage chance of getting the card you need is greater than the percentage of the bet you have to make, then it makes sense to call the bet.

You will often find the same situation applies to your opponents. If you give your opponent a chance to draw a cheap card when you have the best hand, you are giving them favorable odds. If, on the other hand, your opponent calls a bet you make when they are not getting good pot odds you are making money in the long run. It may be easier to see with an example.

You are dealt Big Slick (Ace/King) at a $1 no-limit table. The flop has an Ace and two low hearts. There is already $12 in the pot and it is your bet. You probably have the best hand with a pair of Aces, King kicker. You need to assume one of your opponents will be drawing to complete a flush in hearts or trying to improve a pair when making your bet.

Assuming your opponent has two hearts in his or her hand, they are left with 9 outs, or cards left in the deck which will make the flush. That is 9 out of 48, or about a 1 in 5 chance. You have to make a bet bigger than 1/5th of the pot to make it profitable for you if your opponent calls.

Here are two oversimplified scenarios where you make a good bet and a bad bet on the turn (after the 4th card) when there are two hearts face up. Hopefully these will help you understand my point.

  1. There is $12 in the pot. You bet $1. Your opponent calls $1. If this same scenario happens five times, your opponent will pay you $4 the four times he or she does not get the heart, and will win the $13 (12 + 1) in the pot once. They are paying $5 to win $13. Good odds for them;
  2. There is $12 in the pot. You bet $5. Your opponent calls $5. If this same scenario happens five times your opponent will pay you $20 the four times he or she does not get the heart and will win $17 (12 + 5) once. They are paying $20 to win $17 once. Those are bad odds for him or her, meaning good odds for you.
When you have a good hand and calculate the probable odds your opponents may have, you can make intelligent decisions about the amount of your bets. In this case you need to add the bet you are considering (5) to the current size of the pot (12) and divide this by 5 (the chance your opponent has – 1 in 5 - of making a flush 17 / 5 = 3.4). If the number from this division (3.4) is smaller than the bet you are considering (5), you are making a bet giving you good pot odds.

You need to make it unprofitable for your opponents to chase cards. This will often result in your opponent folding which is good for you, but if they call, you are getting the best of them.

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