Whether you are looking to learn new poker concepts and find out what pot odds are, or you want to learn how to calculate pot odds when playing, you are in the right place.
Pot odds are one of the most important mathematical concepts you need to understand to be a long-term profitable player.
In this guide, we will teach you how to calculate pot odds using a simple formula and how to apply them in-game and make better decisions using them.
Pot odds represent the ratio between the entire pot you are playing for and the current bet that’s been made. When deciding whether or not to call a bet, pot odds will help you make the correct decision.
When we talk about the total pot size, remember that this also includes the uncalled bet made on the current street, as well as all the money in the pot from previous streets.
To explain this in an example, let us imagine you are playing a live cash game with a total of $50 in the pot. Your opponent bets $25, and the action is now on you.
There is a total of $75 in the pot, and you are being asked to call $25. The ratio is 75:25, which boils down to 3:1.
Knowing the pot odds will give you an idea of how much equity you need against your opponent's hand to make a profitable call.
Understanding that your opponent’s bet size matters, especially when you are chasing a draw, is vital.
The concept of pot odds in poker is exactly the one that will tell you when you can make a profitable call and when you should throw your cards into the muck.
How to choose the best bet sizing.
Now that we know what pot odds are, it is time to talk about calculating them. Fortunately, the calculation is not too difficult, and you should get the hang of it quickly.
The overall equation only has a few simple steps, so we will use the example we mentioned to go through these steps and calculate our pot odds.
This means that our hand needs to win 25% of the time for the call to be profitable.
The next thing we need to do is figure out how our hand does against our opponent’s range or perceived hand and whether or not we have the 25% equity.
For example, if we are holding the nut flush draw and our opponent moves all-in on the flop for a half-pot bet, we know that we have at least 36% equity regardless of what our opponent has, which means the call will easily be profitable.
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Calculating pot odds in poker is not too difficult, but many players often overlook it.
The truth is you cannot know whether you should call a bet or fold your cards unless you know the pot odds, and everything else is just guesswork.
Now that you know how pot odds work let's talk briefly about when you can use them and how.
One scenario of when you can use pot odds is before the flop. You open a pot, and a short stack goes all-in on top of it for 10, 15, or 20 big blinds.
Depending on the size of his shove and the range you assign to him, you can decide whether a call is profitable or not.
To get this right, you will need the experience to know what kinds of hands your opponent is shoving, as well as some work with a tool that tells you how different hands do against different ranges.
Of course, pot odds are also commonly used after the flop has already been dealt, usually in situations when we are holding a drawing hand.
If you are holding a hand like a flush draw, straight draw, or overcards, you can calculate whether you are likely enough to hit your card to justify making a call.
Of course, to make these kinds of decisions, you will need to know how to count outs and calculate your equity in poker, which we have covered in another guide that you should definitely read.
Many times in poker, we are sitting with a medium-strength hand on the river and facing a bet from our opponent. All we can really beat is a bluff, and now is the time to decide whether to call or not.
Many players tend to make these decisions based on “feel” or game flow instead of mathematics, and this is exactly the kind of play we discourage.
All your decisions in poker should make sense and be made because of reasons you can explain, and you should leave metaphysics aside.
When facing a river bet and deciding whether or not to bluff catch, you should focus on pot odds and figure out which bluffing hands your opponent could still have.
We have already learned how to calculate pot odds, so this should not be a problem. What we need to figure out now is how often our opponent is bluffing.
Assuming our opponent was the aggressor throughout the hand, this decision will depend heavily on the board structure.
Based on that and the player’s preflop actions, we can construct a range of hands they could have. Ask yourself, which of those hands is still weaker than my hand on the river?
Depending on the pot odds you are facing, you will need to decide whether the opponent has enough bluffs in their range for you to make a call.
Facing a half-pot bet, you will only need to win 25% of the time to make your call break even. This means that a quarter of your opponent's hands need to be bluffs.
Similarly, if the opponent bets full pot, you will need 33% of their hands to be bluffs to make the call break even.
In the end, your opponent will always turn over just one hand, and your call will either win you or lose you the pot, but remember that poker is all about the long run and making the right decisions. Pot odds will greatly help you make such decisions when facing river bets and bluff catching.
Calculating pot odds in the middle of the hand is not too hard but is also not really necessary. For the most part, players tend to make bets that amount to a certain percentage of the pot, and those sizes tend to repeat a lot.
Since there are some very common sizings in the poker game, we have created a quick cheat sheet that will help you know what equity you need to make a call facing different bet sizes.
As you can see, the bigger the bet, the more equity you will need to make your call profitable.
However, even when facing a massive overbet of 2x the pot, you will still need to have only 40% equity, which means having a flush draw and one overcard could be enough to make such a call.
Always remember that some money is already in the pot, and you never need 50% equity to make a call break even. In fact, you need a lot less than that to call most conventional bets in poker.
This also works the other way. The next time you go on to criticize a player for calling your 75% pot bet shove with a naked flush draw on the flop, think back to the pot odds and realize that their call was actually a correct one to make.
You should use pot odds in poker in almost every single hand. Whether you are the one betting or the one calling bets, you should always be aware of how bets interact with the current pot size.
When looking to call a bet or make a raise, think about what percentage of equity you need to safely proceed in the hand.
When you are the one making bets, you should think about how much to bet to price out certain draws or to make your opponent make a mistake and call with an unprofitable hand.
When playing against highly sophisticated players, these things will start to matter more, so the best time to learn is when you can still afford to make mistakes against weaker players at lower stakes.
Remember how to calculate pot odds in every hand you play and do it every time there is a board, even if you don't really plan on playing the hand. As you practice more, figuring out the pot odds will come as second nature to you, and you will know them without even thinking about it.
Next up, we recommend you look at our guide to implied odds to figure out what they are and how to use implied odds in combination with your pot odds to make some thinner calls and earn even more money playing poker.
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