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Understanding implied odds

By Gary Steele

One of the concepts of poker it took me a long time to understand was the use of Implied Odds in my decision making. It really was not until I started playing Omaha Hi/Lo, where there are many more people in a typical hand than in Hold’Em, that the term really started to make sense.

To understand Implied Odds, you really need to have a grasp on “Pot Odds”. Pot Odds are calculating your chance of getting the card you need to make a winning hand on the Turn or River. You do this by comparing the number of cards available for you to make your hand a winner (outs) to the amount of the bet you are required to call to stay in the hand. In other words, if you are required to pay 1 /10th of the pot to stay in the hand, you should have more than a 1 in 10 chance of getting the card you need.

Implied odds are slightly different. They take the expected total amount of the pot when the hand is completed into consideration when making a call after the Flop or Turn. For example, imagine you are at a No-Limit table and three other players are in the pot with you. You have two Hearts in your hand and there are two face up on the Flop. This gives you nine outs (the nine hearts you cannot see). You have approximately a 1 in 5 chance of seeing a Heart on the Turn to make your Flush.

If there is currently $12 in the pot and the bet to you is $3, it does not make sense to call the bet if you are only considering Pot Odds. Your chance of seeing a useful card is 1 in 5, while you are paying 1 / 4 of the amount of the pot to stay in the hand. However, in this case it does make sense to call if you are considering Implied Odds. There is another round of betting after the Turn and a final round of betting after the River. All it takes on those two betting rounds is for $4 of the other player’s money to make it into the pot for the odds to swing in your favor. In a No-Limit Hold’Em game like this one you will probably win much more than $4 extra if you get your Flush on the Turn.

If you assume there will be $30 in the pot at the end of the hand, a very likely scenario with three other players in the pot with you, your Implied Odds are exceptional. You are paying 1 /10th of the pot ($3 of $30), but you have a 1 in 5 chance to get the card you need.

Of course it is important to know the other players in the hand. If you know the guy behind you is wild and has been raising everything, you have to consider that it will probably cost you more than $3 to stay in the hand. If you don’t have a good kicker and suspect someone else of being on a Flush draw too, you should probably fold. The perfect Implied Odds situation consists of a large number of calling stations (players that will chase cards and call any bet).

Predicting the final size of the pot is difficult to do. It takes experience and attention to the game at hand, but once you get it, a whole new realm of winning possibilities will open up to you. It is a very profitable skill to learn.

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