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Pot Odds

By Gary Steele

Learning how to calculate pot odds is your mathematical solution to making the decision on whether to call or fold your hand. Playing pot odds means knowing what your chances of pulling the card you need to make your hand a winner and weighing those chances against the size of the pot. Here is a very basic example of calculating pot odds.

You have 10/Jack and the flop is 8/9/Ace at a $1/$2 limit table. This gives you eight outs, or cards which will give you a good chance of winning the hand. There are four sevens and Queens, any of which will give you a straight. You know what five of the cards are, the two in your hand and the three on the table. This leaves 47 cards which could show up on the turn. Your chances of pulling one of the eight cards you need are 8 out of 47. This gives you about a 1 in 6 chance.

The easiest way of doing this calculation quickly is to double your outs, add one and use this as your percentage. You have 8 outs, your percentage is approximately 17 percent ((8 * 2) + 1).

Now you know your chances of getting the card you need and the player to your left bets $1. You can use this information to decide whether it makes sense for you to pay $1 to chase the eight cards you need. You do this by taking the amount of the pot into account. Simply add the amount in the middle to the bets by other players so far. Since this is a simple example, here are a couple of simple, yet realistic, scenarios you will see every day when you play:

  1. The middle contains $8, the person to your right bets $1. The total pot is $9. Should you stay in? Since you have a one in six chance of getting the card you need it makes sense to stay in the pot. In other words, if this exact scenario happened six times, odds are you would pay $6 total and win $9 once. Those are good odds;
  2. The middle contains $3, the person to your right bet $1. The total pot is $4. In this case you should fold. If this scenario happened six times, odds are you would pay $6 total and win $4 once. These are unfavorable odds.

Keep this simple example in mind while you are playing. After calculating the pot odds for a little while, you will start to see other factors which have to be taken into account such as the tendencies of the other players at the table and the strength of your hand if you get the card you need.

You will also start to notice that there are implied odds as well. Implied odds take the amount of money you predict will be in the pot at the end if you get your card. For example, if you have a 1 in 6 chance to make your hand, and there is only $4 in the pot, you may call anyway, even though pot odds tell you not to. You would do this if you expect there to be more than $7 in the pot at the end because you have been watching the other players and know their tendencies.

Approximate odds for common situations

Chasing Outs Odds
Three of Kind 2 outs 1 in 23
Pair 3 outs 1 in 14.3
Inside Straight 4 outs 1 in 10.5
Open Straight 8 outs 1 in 5.8
Flush 9 outs 1 in 5.2

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