Understanding how to calculate pot odds is a fundamental skill to not sucking at poker. However, understanding and calculating those odds is only half the battle. Once you have your odds, you’ll need to know your equity in the pot. Armed with this information, you can then compare the two to see what the correct play is in every poker situation. It may sound a bit daunting, but it is actually simple enough to master with some practice.
Pot Odds and Pot Size
First of all, you must be able to recognize the pot odds. This is the relationship between the size of the pot and the size of the bet. A quick example: If there’s $10 in the pot and you have to call a $2 bet, then you are getting pot odds of 5-1. If you have to call a $5 bet in the same $10 pot, you’re getting pot odds of 2-1. This is your payout for taking the pot, and because of this, you need to be aware of pot size. The pot size will have a different effect on different games. For instance, when the bets double, like in Hold’em, you count the big bets as two small bets. In Pot-Limit or No-Limit, it can be tougher to count the pot so the odds will not be as exact. However, you still do it.
Once you know your pot odds, you will be able to connect those odds to the value of your hand. This will allow you to put your opponents on likely hands and understand your chances of making the better play. For example, there’s a flush draw on the flop in Hold’em, and you’re up against an opponent who you think has at least top pair. There are nine cards or outs that will give you a flush when you have flopped four cards to a flush. Nine outs give you a 35% chance of making the flush. This means that you need pot odds of at least 2-1 to make a call on the flop profitable. This is a basic example, and it can be more difficult. However, there are also Pot Odds Calculators available to help you along.
Now that you can calculate the pot odds off of the pot size, you need to know the pot equity, as this is the final piece of info you need to play your strongest poker. It begins with counting your outs. In order to calculate your equity which is simply your odds of winning the pot, you need to know how many outs you have to make your hand. This becomes quick and simple with a little practice and a little memorization.
Start simple. There are four cards of every value and 13 of every suit. When you hold an open-ended straight draw, there are two different values of cards that will give you your hand: 2×4= 8 outs. With a flush draw, there are 13 cards of that suit. If you hold two of them and two of them are on the board this is the calculation: 13 – 2 – 2 = 9 outs. The key is to remember to remove the outs you know—the ones on the board and in your hand—and then to not count outs twice.
Then you must remember the anti-outs. If by making your straight you also complete the flush of your opponent, then those straight cards are not outs to your hand and can’t be counted as such. Because of this, the possibility of a flush draw on the board can turn a profitable eight-out straight draw into a six-out straight draw, leaving your odds short.
If you are unsure of the value of your opponent’s hands, be sure to use caution and assume they have the best. So, if there’s a flush draw, assume they have the draw and so forth. As we all know, it’s much less expensive to fold a hand than to wrongly call.
Putting It All Together
Equity and pot odds are determined by a few simple calculations. The more you practice, the quicker they will come. Once you memorize the formulas, you’ll be calculating them in your head in a moment. Obviously, this will be much easier for some than for others, but everyone can do it. It just takes time, and it is so important to a poker play that it is a must. Don’t give up until you have it down pat. When new players begin playing poker, they assume the most important part of the game is the cards in your hand, and nothing can be further from the truth. The most important aspect of poker is how you wager. A good player understands that playing winning poker requires more than good cards; it takes sound bets. And the best way to make sound bets is to compare odds to pot equity.