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The ability to calculate pot odds will only get you halfway to where you need to be. Once you have the odds, you need to calculate your equity in the pot, and then compare the two.
Learning how to use pot odds puts an incredibly useful weapon in your poker arsenal. Knowledge of this basic concept is fundamental in determining whether or not you will become a winning or losing poker player.
This guide aims to explain how pot odds work and how to effectively incorporate them into your game. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to read this guide from start to finish, which is pretty good considering it could be saving (and winning) you more money for the rest of your poker career.
What are pot odds?
Pot odds simply involves using the odds or likelihood of winning when on a drawing hand to decide whether or not to call a bet or a raise.
Therefore when you are on a flush or straight draw, you will be able to work out whether or not to call or fold depending on the size of the bet you are facing by making use of pot odds. Pretty handy really.
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A familiar situation you will find yourself in Texas Hold’em is holding 2 cards of the same suit with another 2 cards of that suit on the flop. In poker this is called a flush draw or sometimes referred to as a ‘four flush’. We will use this as an example in learning the use of pot odds.
Working out pot odds.
There are two ways that you can work out pot odds in Texas Hold’em.
Both of these methods provide the same results, so the one you decide to use is simply a matter of preference.
The ratio method is the most commonly used method for working out pot odds, but I personally found the percentage method the easiest to get to grips with when I was calculating pot odds for the first time.
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Count Your Outs: In order to calculate your equity (your odds of winning the pot), you need to first know how many outs you have to make your hand. This becomes quick and simple with a little practice and a little memorization.
Remember: There are four cards of every value, and 13 of every suit.
If you have an open-ended straight draw, there are two different values of cards that will give you your hand: 2*4= 8 outs. If you have a flush draw there are 13 cards of that suit. You hold two of them, and two of them are on the board: 13 – 2 – 2 = 9 outs.
Remember to remove the outs of cards you know (on the board and in your hand), and to not count outs twice (for example, if you have an open-ended straight flush draw, you have 15 outs).
When counting your outs, you need to remember the idea of anti-outs (and possibly even blockers). If by making your straight you also complete the flush of your opponent, then those straight cards are not outs to your hand, and cannot be counted as such.
The possibility of a flush draw on the board can turn a profitable eight-out straight draw into a six-out straight draw, rendering your odds insufficient.
The stronger a read you get, the more accurate your equity calculations can become.
If you’re unable to make an astute deduction of the value of your opponent’s hands, err on the side of caution and always assume that they have the hand most dangerous to your own.
If there’s a flush draw, assume they have the draw; if the board is paired, assume they have a full house or, if you’re lucky, just trips. It’s less expensive to wrongly fold a hand than to wrongly call off your whole stack.
Equity Shortcut: The easiest way to get your equity is to remember this simple rule:
On the flop, multiply your outs by four.
On the turn, multiply your outs by two.
This means with an open-ended straight draw (eight outs) you have a 32% chance of making your straight with two cards left to come.
For hands on the flop with a large number of outs (>8), the previous shortcut gives a slightly incorrect answer. There’s a simple formula you can remember to get a slightly more accurate figure:
(number of outs * 4) – (number of outs – 8) = Equity
This means the equity of an open-ended straight flush draw (15 outs) would be:
(15 * 4) – (15 – 8) = 53%
Without this little formula, the percentage would be higher by seven points, giving us an artificially large result. If your equity calculations are wrong, you will be unable to make informed decisions on the day.
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