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How to Use Pot Odds in Texas Holdem

To begin we must be sure everyone understands what pot odds in poker are. In general, pot odds are the size of the call you must make to stay in the hand divided by the size of the pot. You can also consider pot odds as a ratio between the size of the pot and the amount of the call you must make. For example, if the pot is $60 and your opponent makes a bet of $20, then the total pot would be $100 after you make the $20 call, which means your pot odds would be 20% or 5 to 1.

How to Use Pot Odds

Now that you know what pot odds are we should look at how you can use them to improve your decisions in online poker. If we continue with the example provided above in order to call the additional $20, you should feel that you have at least a 20% or 5 to 1 chance of having the best hand after the next card is dealt.

For example, if you have an open ended straight draw after the turn and you are putting your opponent on a top pair, the odds of you making your straight and the best hand are about 17%. You can calculate this by dividing the number of cards that improve your hand (in this case 8), by the number of cards in the deck that aren’t accounted for (in this case 46). Since you have to call 20% of the pot and the odds of you making the best hand are only 17% you should fold the hand because calling $20 to have a 17% chance of winning a $100 pot is negative expected value. This example assumes that there is no betting on the river. To include the betting on the river in your decision you must look at implied odds, which we aren’t going to get into in this article.

Continuing with the same example, let’s say that in addition to this open ended straight draw you had a flush draw as well. Now you have 8 outs to make a straight and 9 outs to make a flush, giving you 17 total outs. However, because 2 of the cards make both a straight and a flush, you have to subtract them, which brings your total outs down to 15. Now to find your odds of making the hand you must divide your number of outs (15) by the number of unseen cards (46). In this case you will find that you have a 33% chance of making either a straight or a flush, both of which you feel will be the best hand. In this case, the 33% is much higher than the 20% of the pot you must contribute, which means you should definitely make the $20 call.

Now let’s look at one more detailed example. You are holding (2h,Kh) and the board shows (5h, Ah, 8c, 2c) after the turn. The pot was $100 and your opponent bet $100 making the total pot $200, or $300 with your call. You are putting your opponent on a big ace or two pair, but not a set. This means you feel that if you make the flush or hit a third 2 you will have the best hand. You have 9 outs to hit the flush and 2 outs to hit another 2, giving you 11 total outs. There are 46 cards left unseen, which means you have an 11/45, or 24% chance of making the best hand. With your $100 call the pot will be $300, which means that you need a 33% chance of making your hand to justify calling your opponents pot size bet. Therefore in this situation the right play would be to fold.

Understanding pot odds and being able to calculate your outs are very important when deciding whether to chase draws in online poker. Poker is a game of mathematics and getting your chips in with a positive expected value with greatly improve your poker game and should turn your into a winning poker player.

Other Intermediate Texas Hold'em Poker Strategy:

How Not To Play Pocket Aces

How To Play Pocket Queens

Using your stack size in heads up poker

Do Not Scare the Fish Away from Your Table

Poker Bankroll Management

Strategy for Playing Small Pocket Pairs