How to calculate poker odds and why it’s important

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Last updated: September 9, 2022 11:37 am EDT

Many players are unsure how to calculate poker odds, but it’s an important part of playing winning poker. Knowing if you’re getting the right price to make a call is crucial to your success. If you’re making mathematically incorrect decisions consistently, you’ll most assuredly become a long-term losing player.  But we don’t want that to happen to you, so we have some valuable tips to improve your game and overall poker strategy.

What are pot odds?

If there’s $100 in the pot and the bet to you is $50, you’re getting 2-1 on your money. It’s a very simple calculation to figure basic pot odds. You take the $100 in the pot and divide it by the size of the bet ($50), which comes out to 2-1 odds (two times your bet).

If the pot had $150 in it and you were facing a $50 bet, the pot odds would be 3-1 ($150 divided by $50). Simple enough? It is, but determining if you’re getting the right pot odds, or price, depends on the chance your hand will be good at showdown.

Are you getting the right price to call?

Here’s where things get a bit tricky. The goal for every poker player, of course, is to win over the long term. If you’re consistently making the correct mathematical decision, you’ll achieve that goal. That means you must avoid making calls when you aren’t getting the right price.

Let’s go back to that $100 pot example above. We’ll say you have 6-5 of diamonds on a board of 2-9-10 with two diamonds. All you have is a small flush draw, which means you have nine outs to hit your flush (nine diamonds left in the deck). You have approximately a 36% chance of hitting that flush (each out should be multiplied by four on the flop to determine the approximate percentage chance of hitting), or about a 1 in 3 shot.

So, is it a profitable move long-term to call that $50 bet at 2-1 odds? The answer is yes, barely, because you only have to hit that draw 1 in 3 times just to break even (and we’ve already determined you’ll hit it just over 1 in 3). How’d we figure that out? If you played this out 100 times, you’ll lose your $50 64 times ($3,200) but win the $100 that was already in the pot 36 times ($3,600) for a profit of $400.

Poker odds chart

This poker odds chart shows a list of common bet and pot sizes, with their odds:

Bet SizePot SizePot Odds

Implied odds

What we’ve already explained is the easy part. Even someone with minimal math skills can figure out basic pot odd calculations. But there’s one aspect of this that we haven’t yet covered, and that is what is called implied odds.

Going back to the flush draw example, we determined the odds were correct to make the call. However, there are certain times when you aren’t getting the correct current odds to call, but making a call is still the right play in no-limit Texas hold’em poker. In NLH, you should often consider the implied odds of making a call. Implied odds are rarely taken into consideration in limit poker games.

What are implied odds?

Implied odds are the odds that you’ll win enough chips when you actually hit your hand to make these real-money games profitable long-term. Let’s say you have a 6-5 hand (flush draw) and the pot is $100 , but you’re facing a $75 bet. In this case, you’re only getting 1.5-1 on your money, which isn’t good enough odds to call with a flush draw that only has a 36% chance of hitting.

But in some cases, you actually should still call because of implied odds. If your opponent has a big stack behind and so do you, the true odds often don’t really matter. That’s because if you do hit your flush, you’ll potentially win enough to make up for the mediocre odds you were facing on the flop. Implied odds don’t come into play when you’re facing an all-in bet, because there are no additional chips to be won. When you’re calling off an all-in bet on a draw, your only thought should be whether making the call is profitable long-term, based on the current pot odds.

Determining outs

Poker is a game of incomplete information. To properly calculate pot odds, you must know exactly what poker hand you’re up against. But that isn’t possible, because you can’t see your opponent’s hole cards. You may think you know your opponent hit top pair or has a set, but until you see those cards, you won’t know for sure.

This complicates things when trying to calculate pot odds. So what most pros do is to put their opponent on a range of hands based on their history with that player and how that player has played the current hand. In the above 6-5 example on the 2-9-10 board, you could conceivably have more than nine outs. If your opponent has just ace-high with no pair, you’d also win the hand if you missed your flush but hit a 6 or a 5.

What we’re saying is, you can’t always be sure you’re getting the right odds to call with a drawing hand. For example, let’s say your opponent is also chasing a flush, but their flush-draw is bigger. In this case, you’d only be drawing to a 6 or 5 to pair up (six outs), and hoping to avoid hitting your flush.

That’s why it’s important to pay close attention to your opponents in how they bet and act. That way, you can make informed guesses as to the type of hand they’re holding. If you have a pretty good idea of what you’re up against, it’ll be far easier to calculate pot odds.

Betting pot odds

When you’re the one doing the betting, you must also consider the odds you’re giving up. If you’ve a made hand such as top pair on a wet or draw-heavy board (potential flush and straight draws), you should bet bigger than you would on a dry board. The reason for that is, you need to deny your opponent’s equity.

This betting pot odds chart shows common pre-bet pot sizes, bets, and corresponding odds:

Pre-Bet Pot SizeYour Bet SizeNew Pot SizeOpponent’s Pot Odds

If you’re the one with a 10 on that 2-9-10 board with two diamonds, and your opponent is holding the 6-5 of diamonds, you need to make them pay to chase that flush. So if there’s $100 in the pot, bet out around $80 to deny them equity and make it an unprofitable decision to call. Those who make mathematically correct calls and force others to call off without getting the right odds consistently will win in the long-term.

The takeaway

From longtime players to beginners just learning how to play poker, familiarizing yourself with pot odds is a great way to improve your chance of winning. That also applies whether you play in online poker rooms, prefer to throw down in-person, or do a little bit of both.

What about poker hand odds?

For more helpful odds-related information, be sure to check out our poker hands ranking chart. This helpful, easy-to-ready, and downloadable cheatsheet should be your next study-buddy before your next big poker tournament. It covers the odds for every type of winning hand, from a full house, to a pocket pair, and a straight flush.

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