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How to calculate your odds

Calculating odds in texas hold’em is fundamental to being a long term winning poker player. Players who take a sound mathematical approach have a significant edge over players who ignore this aspect of the game. It’s irrational to think that you can simply chase two outers to the river and expect to be a winning player, sure enough you will sometimes get lucky when you have the worst of it, but more often then not, you will end up donating your entire stack to your opponent.

One of the most important concepts in poker, relevant to both limit and no-limit hold’em, is understanding the idea of pot odds. In short, pot odds describe the amount of money you can win in relation to what you're required to invest (size of the bet) in a hand.

According to pot odds, if you know whether to call or fold is going to have a positive expectation, then you know the play is going to make you money in the long run, regardless of the outcome in the hand, since the math doesn’t lie.

The first step in calculating pot odds is to determine the bet amount in relation to the pot. When you analyze the bet size using this thought process, it allows you to quickly calculate the pot odds on the fly, because it will become second nature.

For example, if a player was to bet $20 into a $40 pot that was in the middle, this would be a ½ pot bet, and you would have 3 to 1 odds to make the call. On the other hand, if a player was to bet $40 into a $40 pot, this would be a pot size bet, and you would be getting 2 to 1 odds to make the call.

It’s easier thinking of pot odds like this because most players get in the habit of making ½ pot or pot size bets. In situations where you would have to call a different size bet, it’s still a fairly straightforward process for calculating odds.

Once you understand the concept, you should use it in cash games. The best cash game action can be found at 888, where you will also get a great 200% bonus on your first deposit (max. bonus of $1000) if you use bonus code COACH. Click here to visit 888.

Using the formula…

Pot Odds = A:B

A = Pot size
B = Amount you have to call

If a player was to bet $10 into a $40 pot, once we input these numbers…

A = $10 + $40 = $50 (since you are taking into account the bet amount)
B = $10

Based on this your pot odds would be 50:10 as a ratio or 5 to 1. However, this is only one piece of the puzzle.

Typically you are required to calculate odds when you have a drawing hand such as with a flush draw or straight draw. Knowing the odds and expectation you have of making the best hand allows players to compare the chances of improving to the winning hand versus the pot odds there getting on their investment.

Using the above example, if we have a flush draw you know there is roughly 4 to 1 odds to hitting your flush on the river with one card to come. In this situation you should call, because the odds we’re getting from the pot is greater then the odds of hitting our flush, so you will make money in the long term.

Since you are pretty much always having to determine whether to call or fold with a drawing type hand, calculating odds requires that you memorize the card odds of common draws, so that you can easily compare it to the pot odds you’re getting, to know if the call is profitable.

If you’re always calling with drawing hands with no thought as to the chances of making the best hand when you expect your opponent to have a better hand, then you’d virtually be lighting money on fire. In addition to comparing ratios of pot odds to hand odds, you can also think of it in terms of percentages, but you still reach exactly the same outcome.