The concept of pot odds is easy to learn and in my opinion is one of the most important concepts of playing winning poker, especially no limit hold'em.
It's simply, the relationship, expressed as a ratio, between the size of the bet you are making or calling, and the number of bets those bets in the pot. For example, if there is 12$ in the pot and you need to call a 3$ bet, you are getting 4:1 pot odds, expressed as 4:1.
To have good enough pot odds, generally you need to have better pot odds than your chance of winning the hand. So if you think you only have a 20% chance to win the hand, you should only play that hand if there is 5 times your bet or more in the pot. This is a risk/reward ratio - if you risk losing the bet, you need to have a big enough reward to make it affordable.
Pot odds can be used during different situations, including calling bets or drawing to a straight or flush. For example, if you need to call 5$ with a 25% chance to win a hand, there needs to be 4 or more times the size of your bet in the pot, or 20$.
BEFORE THE FLOP: especially when you are playing weaker hands trying to hit a flop, ex. suited connectors and small pairs, be aware if the pot is big enough for you to take a flop and try to hit your hand. To have good enough odds, generally you need to have better pot odds than your chance of winning the hand. So if you think you only have a 20% chance to win the hand, you should only play that hand if there is 5 times your bet or more in the pot. This is a risk/reward ratio - if you risk losing the bet, you need to have a big enough reward to make it affordable.
AFTER THE FLOP: This will mainly be applied when you are drawing to a hand, but the same rule applies, you must have better pot odds then your chance of winning, so it will be profitable in the long run if you hit. To apply this, you need to know how many outs you have, and what percentage this gives you to win the hand. Below is a chart drawing odds from a deck of 47 unseen cards.
Good players will also use these when defending the best hand. When you are playing with the best hand, especially against loose players, you can put in a bet that gives the player bad odds to call if you think he will play anyway, or if you want to just win the pot right away you can put an oversized bet in that is clearly not an affordable price to draw. This is just one of the ways that you can tilt pot odds in your favor.
Drawing odds from a deck of 47 unseen cards
|Outs||2 Cards to Come||1 Card to come|
BLUFFING: Pot odds must also be considered when bluffing. Over and Over again I have seen people bluff all in to attempt to steal the smaller blinds: an incredibly high risk for a very small reward. The mathematical rule for bluffing is that THE POT ODDS MUST BE GREATER THAN THE ODDS OF SUCCESSFULLY PULLING OFF THE BLUFF.
For example, if you estimate the odds of bluffing and winning at 1 in 5, then there must be more than 5 bets in the pot when you attempt the bluff. This means that you can bluff 1 10th the size of the pot and lose 9 times, and you win in the long run if you win the 10th time. HOWEVER, be careful when playing against bad players, who are often "un-bluffable". Make sure you consider that your chance of bluffing bad players is very small, and use this move scarcely.
As you can see, pot odds can make you a winning player in many aspects of the game, and it is essential to always be thinking about pot odds in the risk/reward game that is poker.
7 September 2005