If you are a regular poker player, you’ve probably heard the term “pot odds” tossed around a lot. If you are a new player, you may be hearing it for the first time. For any player, an understanding of the concept is integral to your ability to play the game well and to consistently win.
Playing without a strategy that includes pot odds will put you at a disadvantage. Poker is a game of skill, strategy, and intelligence. A basic knowledge of the game will get you started, but to be a successful player you need to understand more advanced concepts like statistics and probability.
Understanding the odds inherent with the game and playing in accordance with those odds will improve your results and combining that strategy with skill and intelligence is what makes a great poker player.
Put simply, pot odds should be the basis for all choices you make regarding your hand. Pot odds are determined by comparing the size of the pot to the strength of your hand and estimating what you have to invest to have a shot at the pot. In other words, pot odds are basically the risk vs. the gain for each hand.
Now we’ll demonstrate this concept with a hypothetical hand.
For example, you are playing a game of No Limit Hold-em. You were dealt a starting hand of 8(c) and 9(c).
The flop shows a 6(c) 7(c) and K(s).
There are two players left in the hand in addition to you, and both raised before the flop.
The pot is currently $40, and you are the last player to bet.
This scenario obviously puts you in a pretty strong position. You have eight outs to a straight and eleven outs to a flush, for a total of nineteen outs, which gives you a pretty good shot at winning the hand.
Suppose that one of the remaining players bets $10 and the next player calls. That makes a $60 pot prior to your own bet and you only have to call at $10 to stay in. At this point the pot odds translate to a return of six times your investment if you win.
Additionally, you have 2:1 odds of winning this hand prior to the turn. These statistics when taken into consideration together make for very attractive pot odds. If for example the king was also a club, then your chances of winning the hand would decrease as the other players potential for getting the same combination increased. Or if the pot was lower and your call was higher, then your pot odds would decrease accordingly and betting or even calling would be a higher risk.
The concept of pot odds is difficult to explain in words but is easier to understand in action and can be quite effective in improving your win percentage when applied practically.
Because the purpose of playing poker is to win, anything that can improve your chances of winning or increase the amount you win is a valuable asset.
Using pot odds to determine how you play does not guarantee you win, but it does make the risks you take and the occasional pay-off from those risks more favourable.