Sports & Games

Poker 101: What Are Poker Odds? Learn How to Calculate Poker Odds and How Odds Work

Written by MasterClass

Aug 1, 2019 • 3 min read

Understanding what poker odds are, and how to use them, is essential if you are to ever win money over the long run in poker. Working with poker odds is your first step on the road to mastery of the mathematical side of poker strategy.

What Are Poker Odds?

Poker odds can be described as the probability that you can expect to win or lose, or the price on offer. It can also specify how often you need to have the best hand to call a bet. Every bet, raise, or call, that you make in no limit texas hold'em has its own odds.

Poker odds are the most basic probability tool at a player’s disposal. To be able to play poker well, you must always be thinking about pot odds, whether those you are being offered or those you are offering an opponent.

Why Is Calculating Poker Odds Important?

Calculating poker odds is how a poker player assesses the current situation. Without a true understanding of what the odds are, you will be unable to formulate a profitable plan. Do not feel daunted at the prospect of having to master mathematical techniques if you are not that kind of person. It takes a little practice, but is ultimately no more difficult than learning basic multiplication tables.

How Do Poker Odds Work?

Pot odds are the ratio between the size of the pot and the size of the bet. For example, if the starting pot is \$10 and a player bets \$5—half the pot—then the pot size is now \$15 and a player is facing a \$5 bet.

• The pot odds are 15:5 and ideally you want to reduce the right side of the ratio to one. The rules for ratios are exactly the same as a standard mathematical equation—what you do to one side you must also do to the other.
• If you divide both sides by five the ratio becomes pot odds of 3:1. You can work with this 3:1 ratio further to convert into percentage form. Add both sides together, which equals four. Now divide 100% by four and you get four equal parts of 25%. Multiplying both sides of the 3:1 ratio by 25% result and you get a 75% : 25% ratio.
• Using this form of poker odds, you now know that if your opponent bets half of the pot then you must expect to have the best hand at least 25% of the time to make a profitable call, without factoring in any further action. The more you try to predict what will happen later in the hand, the more complicated the calculations become.

How to Know When to Call a Bet

When playing poker games you will frequently find yourself facing a bet with a hand that has no showdown value but has the potential to become the best hand. Calling—or even raising—in this situation is known as drawing. Flush draws and straight draws are the most common types of draw you will face.

It is crucial that you know if you are getting good enough odds to make a call with a draw.

• The first step is to calculate how often you will hit your draw. On the flop in texas hold'em, there are 47 unseen cards—52 minus your two holecards and the three cards on the board. If you hold two cards of the same suit and the board also shows two cards of the same suit then one more will complete your draw. Four cards showing of the same suit leaves nine in the deck to complete the draw. 47 - 9 = 38 cards that don’t complete your draw.
• Now, you have a ratio of 38:9 which roughly scales down to 4:1. This means if you are not getting those pot odds, or better, then you can not call the bet if you are only considering pot odds. This subject becomes more difficult when implied odds are considered. Implied odds not only factor in the current pot odds, but also a prediction of what will happen in the rest of the hand. This can mean, for example, that you can call a bet getting poor pot odds if you expect to win a big pot when you make your draw.

What Are Some Common Hold ’Em Matchups?

These preflop matchups are the most common you will see during play.

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