Understanding and leveraging odds at the poker table is one of the fundamental skills required to become a winning poker player long-term. It’s a skill that often separates novices from intermediate and seasoned players so, if you’re keen to bridge that gap, be sure to take this on board to improve the profitability of your decision-making.
Poker is a game of incomplete information, requiring you to join as many dots as possible to determine whether you have the best hand. One of the best ways to assess your likelihood of winning a particular hand is to calculate the pot odds. Pot odds are most popular among players with drawing hands, as they want to know their percentage chances of completing their drawing hands by the final river card.
Understanding Pot Odds
Pot odds compare the size of the current pot to the cost of the next bet needed to see the next card. If the odds of making your drawing hand are greater than the pot odds, it becomes a no-brainer decision to continue. In fact, it makes this a profitable play long term, delivering positive expected value (+EV). If you’d like a visual tool to calculate your potential pot odds in a hand online, be sure to try PokerNews poker odds calculator, which can display your percentage chance of winning any hand compared with your opponents’ hole cards.
Hand equity is another popular metric to consider when assessing your betting opportunities in a hand of poker. This metric displays how much of the current pot is your ‘share’ based on the current strength of your hand. Hand equity factors in the prospect of improving your hand too to determine if you’re likely to have the best hand at showdown.
- A basic formula is used to calculate hand equity based on your current hand, the number of opponents left in the hand and the community cards in play:
- The number of ways you can win / the number of potential outcomes = hand equity.• Let’s say you have nine possible cards that can improve your hand and you can win your hand in three of these scenarios, you’ll have 33% hand equity: 3 / 9 = 0.3333 (33.33%).
Implied Odds and Reverse Implied Odds
Delving deeper into the role of odds in poker, you should also dedicate some time to learning the concept of implied odds. This looks beyond the current pot odds and gauges the potential future gains too.
Implied odds factor in the potential to extract more chips from players on future streets, especially if you complete your drawing hand, like the one Mike McDermott completes to beat his long-time nemesis, Teddy “KGB” in the movie Rounders, released just a short time before the initial “poker boom”.
If you have four spades on the flop – a flush draw – the immediate pot odds may not justify calling your opponent’s bet, but if there’s a reasonable chance of getting more chips from them should another spade land on the turn or river, the implied odds may make it a +EV play.
There are also reverse implied odds to consider. This is more of a risk mitigation calculation, assessing potential future losses if your drawing hand remains inferior to an opponent’s hand.
For instance, although you may be chasing a straight draw, it’s possible a better straight draw – or flush draw – exists within the community cards. This can increase the reverse implied odds.
In short, odds in poker are a dynamic tool for strategic decision-making at the tables. After all, poker is a historic game of probabilities, so it’s always best to save your chips for optimal scenarios when the odds are stacked in your favour.