Once you have a good grasp of poker rules and other basic concepts, you will need to learn the math behind the game, calculate pot odds and implied odds, and put those two together to figure out your best plays.
In this guide, we will teach you what implied odds are, how to use them at the tables, and how best to calculate them. Let’s start by explaining what implied odds means and why you need to think about them.
When we talk about implied odds in poker, we are talking about the amount of money or chips we need to win in the future to make a call profitable.
Implied odds only work in combination with pot odds.
Once you know how pot odds work, you can see some situations where making a call isn’t directly profitable, but you can still make it with the expectation of winning more money if you hit your hand.
Therefore, some calls can still be justified when facing bets on early streets if we add implied odds to the equation.
The reason is that we will still be able to win more money on future streets, and that money is not included in the basic pot odds calculation.
It is impossible to fully calculate implied odds, as there are too many variables to consider. Many different cards can still peel off, and both us and our opponent can take many actions.
Yet, we can calculate the minimum amount of money we need to win on future streets to make a call profitable, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.
By the time you are done reading this guide, you will learn how to turn unprofitable calls into profitable ones and how to win more money by sometimes calling with less equity than you theoretically need to have.
When facing bets from our opponents, we have learned that we first need to count our outs and calculate our equity in the hand.
Once we know how much equity we have, we can calculate pot odds and figure out how much equity we need to have to make a profitable call.
Sometimes, our calculations come up short, and we face a bet that isn't immediately profitable. A common example of this is when facing a bet on the flop holding a gutshot straight draw.
Normally speaking, a gutshot straight draw only gives us about 16% equity (using the rule of two and four), which is not enough to call any sizable bet.
Yet, if the stacks are deep, such a call may still make sense. Of course, we may stand to win a lot more money on future streets if we hit it.
Knowing exactly how much we are going to win if we make our hand is practically impossible, so the best we can do is make some guesses.
These educated guesses can be made based on our history with the particular player, general player tendencies, and the range of hands we put our opponent on.
As we explained earlier, teaching you how to calculate implied odds would not help much, as such an equation would be extremely complex and probably take hours to complete.
To make an assessment of the average amount of chips we will win in certain situations, we would need to run a simulation for every possible card and action that’s likely to happen on future streets.
Instead, calculating implied odds means calculating the minimum amount of chips we need to win on future streets to make an otherwise unprofitable call profitable.
To make this calculation, we are going to use an example hand:
We are facing a $60 bet into an $80 pot. After finishing the pot odds calculation, we realize we have 20% equity in the hand. Since we need 30% equity to make this call profitable (according to pot odds), we should be folding.
However, since there is still future betting to come, we will run an implied odds calculation to find out how much money we’d need to win on future streets to make this call justifiable.
The equation you will need for this is:
If we use the numbers from our example, we are going to come up with:
$60 / ($60 + $80 + $60 + (X)) = 0.2
Now, let us solve for X:
$60 / $200 + (X) = 0.2
0.2 x $200 + 0.2 x X =$60
0.2 x X = $60 - $40
0.2 x X = $20
X = $100
Looking at the equation, we can see that it would take for us to win another $100 every time we hit our draw to make the call profitable.
This $100 win will make up for the 10% in equity we are missing after calculating our pot odds. That way, the call will be equally as profitable as if the bet was smaller or the pot was already bigger.
Remember that you need to be honest with yourself about the potential to win that money on future streets in these situations.
In some hands, your future winning potential will be much greater than what you need, while in others, it will be smaller.
Make sure to make a realistic assessment of the situation, and don't just assume the other guy is going to blindly pay you off when you make your flush or complete your open-ender.
Now that we have discussed how to calculate implied odds let's talk about a concrete example. In fact, we will use the same example we used in learning the calculation.
The hand in question is the following:
We are holding Kh Qh on the button, and the board is Ah 7h 4c 2d. Our opponent bets the $60 into $80, and we are contemplating making this call.
As we calculated earlier, we have close to 20% equity but need 30% to make the call. Based on pot odds alone, we should be folding.
Our implied odds calculation told us we would need to win another $100 when we make our hand in order to make the call profitable.
We are in position, so this means that there are two ways we could win additional money on the river when we do hit our flush:
On this particular hand, we will often win another $100 on the river if we make our flush, which means calling the $60 bet now may still be profitable. This is especially the case if our opponent is known as an aggressive player who likes to fire bets.
On the other hand, if our opponent is passive and known to give up, the call becomes questionable, but you also have an option to bluff when you miss against these players.
Similarly, the call would be much less profitable if we were out of position, taking away some of our options.
These are all things to think about when making decisions based on implied odds, as you need to make sure you are winning enough when you make your hand to compensate for the equity you are missing.
Now, let us take a look at another hand of Texas Hold’em in which implied odds come into play.
Playing a $2/5 cash game, we have Ks 7s and raise to $15 in the cutoff. The player on the button makes the call, and the blinds fold out.
There is now $37 in the pot, and the flop comes 3c 4s 5d. We fire out a bet of $20, and our opponent calls it.
There is now $77 on the pot. The turn card is the Td, and our opponent fires a $70 bet into the $77 pot. We are holding a gutshot straight draw and one overcard that may be good some of the time.
The odds of hitting our straight draw are 8.7%, and the odds of making a pair of kings are 6.5%, giving us total equity of 15.2%, not all of which is guaranteed to be the best hand.
What’s even more, even our straight will not be the nuts, and we often end up chopping the pot when we make it, sometimes losing straight up to 87.
Now, we are going to calculate the pot odds. We need to call $70 to win the pot of $217, which means we need to have about 32% equity to make the call profitable. Instead, we have 15.2% at best.
If we weren’t going to consider implied odds, this would be an easy call, but let’s calculate and figure out how much we’d need to win to make this call profitable.
$70 / ($70 + $77 + $70 + (X)) = 0.15
$70 / ($217 +(X)) = 0.15
0.15 x $211 + 0.15 x X =$70
0.15 x X = $70 - $42.2
0.15 x X = $27.8
X = $185.3
Our implied odds calculation tells us we would need to win $185 on the river when we make our top pair or straight to make the turn call profitable.
The total pot will be $211 after we make the call, meaning we would need to win another nearly pot-sized bet when we make our hand.
In truth, it's going to be very difficult to do that. River cards that help our hand will often freeze the action, especially the 6 that makes out straight.
What’s even more, hitting a K will often win us the pot, but if another $185 bet goes into the pot, it’s more likely our opponent will have our pair of Kings beaten.
Finally, even when we do get $185 on the river, that only puts us at break even, meaning we need to win more than pot on the river to make our turn call reasonable.
For all these reasons, implied odds in this situation are unfavourable and do not justify making the call. While it can be tempting to assume you can stack your opponent on the river, sometimes the math simply doesn’t add up.
You have now learned how to calculate implied odds and consider the implications of making your hand on future streets.
We have shown you an example of a favourable implied odds situation and a bad one for you.
Of course, this is a very simplified version illustrating how this works. In many cases, you will find yourself somewhere in the middle, so make sure you learn how to calculate implied odds on the spot and quickly figure out how much money you need to win in the future to make your calls profitable.
As a rule of thumb, calling with big draws on the flop is fine since you have a lot of equity and can even bluff later on. That said, don't forget to think of implied odds the next time you play, especially when facing big bets with questionable hands.
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