Talking Poker: Pot Odds
Each week, the Talking Poker series will highlight a particular poker term. We’ll give you a clear, to-the-point definition of the term and an example of the strategic concept to which it refers, so that you can start using the term and implementing the related strategy into your game. This week we will be focusing on pot odds.
Pot odds are the ratio of the size of the pot to the size of the bet a player has to call.
Game: No-limit hold’em, $1-$2 cash game
Action: Two players limp, and the button limps with . The small blind calls and the big blind checks. The flop comes . The blinds check, the first limper bets $5, the second limper calls, and the button is considering a call. The current pot is $10 (preflop) + $5 (bet) + $5 (call) = $20.
There is $20 in the middle, and the button is deciding whether to call and put in $5 to win that $20. That means his pot odds are 20-to-5 which can be reduced down to 4-to-1. The button is getting 4-to-1 pot odds to call.
Pot odds are key in a player’s decision making because one can compare pot odds to the probability of winning a hand based on future outcomes. That is called estimating a call’s expected value.
Generally speaking, if a player is on a draw (like the player above who is hoping to hit a trey and make a five-high straight), the chances of completing that draw need to be better than the pot odds being given to him to call in order to make the call correct. As it happens the chance of hitting an inside straight with two cards to come is just a little worse than 5-to-1, which would make calling the $5 to try to win $20 a poor decision since the chance of hitting the draw is worse than the pot odds being offered.
Players must also take into consideration implied odds and reverse implied odds, which will be discussed in coming installments.
Listen and Learn
For more information on poker odds, check out a special episode of the Strategy with Kristy podcast on poker math.