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It is pretty normal for beginners to the exciting game of real money poker wins to feel a bit left out of the action of being able to precisely and mathematically sustain their game like the more advanced level players seem to by accurately and most times, discreetly calculating pot odds. This article aims at changing all that so that even beginner poker players can understand the importance and method of calculating for the pot odds.
Understanding and acting on pot odds is critical to winning at poker. You’ll need to take pot odds into consideration when determining if it will be profitable to draw to your straight or flush, a decision you will make dozens of times in a single session.
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The main point beginner players must keep in mind when evaluating pot odds is whether a draw would be beneficial to their straight or a flush, which is the big question every new player is faced with, sometimes several times in the same session. So, just be prepared to take a timely and calculated call.
When you’re playing poker, you’ll frequently encounter this scenario: Your opponent has a made hand and is betting, and you’re in the pot with nothing but a draw. In this instance, when you are at the receiving end ‘drawing’ – you are typically holding 4 to a straight or 4 to a flush, in the hope of getting a card that gives you a winning hand. However, it is not advisable to continue playing on unless you have learned how to calculate the pot odds and whether these are likely to be in your favor or not, since a smart gambler should know when to throw ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. Beginners can learn the science of calculating pot odds for making profitable decisions at the right time so they can let a hand go or hold on to the one draw that can turn the odds to their advantage.
Much like calculating your outs, calculating your pot odds sounds a lot more difficult than it is. With a little practice and a little seventh-grade math, you can master this concept fairly quickly.
The below example is based on limit hold’em poker only because it is a simple way of explaining the game dynamics but works just as well in the higher risk, higher profit scenario of No-limit games as well. Take a look:
Suppose your game is the $1/$2 Limit Hold’em version and you have an ace and king of spades folded to you on the button on which you raise to a $2 amount. Both big and small blinds may call at this point and you are triple-handed for a flop of jack of spades, queen of clubs and a 3 of spades with the small blind placing a bet of $1 and a call made by the big blind.
Now you are at the level to determine the odds you are getting, so count the bets. 3 players placed $2 prior to the flop (that’s 3×2 equals USD 6) while the small blind placed a bet of $1 and the big blind called on this move (that’s 1+1 equals USD 2). So the pre-flop action value is USD 6 while 2 USD is flop action, totaling USD 8, leaving you to call $1 for winning the pot of $8. Thus, your chance of getting the pot odds is calculated at an instant 8-1 based on your call!
The card that comes at a later street is your out, which you now need to calculate for determining a winning hand; so if both opponents have a queen-pair and bad kicker, this leaves you with 6 ‘outs’ along with 2 over cards of yours in addition to 4 tens for making a straight that is 10 outs total.
At this point, you’ve seen 5 cards (your 2 hole cards + 3 on the board) from the 52; this leaves 47 cards in the deck, of which 10 will contribute on the turn to your winning hand and 37 will not. So, divide this by the outs and you get 3.7 (37/10), leaving you with the odds of 3.7-1. Finally, so your call on the flop is profitable the pot should lay you this value at least but we’ve already calculated the real figure is 8-1, thus it is a much greater positive expectation for you.
You won’t always be able to limit yourself to calling only when the immediate pot odds are correct. There are also circumstances in which you can profitably call without correct odds on the betting round you’re currently involved in.
This is because of betting to come on later streets, with the initial bad odds overcome by making a big bet should you make your hand.
Implied odds are the implied bets of those later rounds. For more on how they factor into your decision at this stage, see the in-depth article on implied odds.
That’s all there is to it. The math is elementary; anybody should be able to do it in their head. Simple calculations like this are really the essence of poker.
If you’re only calling bets when the pot is laying you correct odds (or when you have good implied odds), in the long run you will be a profitable poker player.
So get into the habit of calculating pot odds. Do it for pots you are not involved in. If you can do it quickly and easily on the spot, the guesswork in your poker game will be eliminated.
Once you have overcome just chasing “a feeling” about your draw, start chasing with correct odds. Your whole poker game will turn around. Before you know it, you’ll be a winning poker player.
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Beginner's Guide: Calculating Pot Odds