Learn Poker Craft:
Of course Poker does involve some luck, but there is also a lot of skill required to get the best from the game. Some of the skill comes in when deciding whether to continue betting on a particular hand or not. When and how much to bet is down to experience to some extent, but there are some basic rules of maths that can be applied to situations at the poker table. In our Poker Craft section we aim to give you the base knowledge to help you optimise your poker play, just like the pro's do!
In this edition of Poker Craft, we are going to look at Pot Odds and Card Odds. We will go on to analyse the factors needing to be taken into account when you've flopped a good hand that could become a great hand.
Pot Odds - let's work it out...
Poker Pot odds describes the comparison between the odds of completing a certain hand against the potential gain in chips if you win. Job number one is to gauge the value of chips in the pot already, and how much is about to be added to the pot from other players. At the 32Red Poker Room this is easy as the value of the pot is displayed (if you so wish) on the table, then we just need to add in the bets on the table yet to go into the pot, and estimate how much more will go in from other players on this round of betting. With the total in mind, simply divide this by the value of the bet you must place to call and stay in the game. For example, the pot is worth $10 and to stay in you need to call for $2. The odds here are 5 to 1 in that your $2 bet could win you $10. It is possible that another player will raise the bet after you have called, in which case a recalculation needs to be done based on the new values at hand.
Card Odds - turn them into chips...
So you know the odds of reward from the pot. Now we need to compare this to the hand or potential hand you have. For instance, your Pocket Cards are Ace-King on the Turn and you believe that a pair of either will win the hand. In this case you have six outs (potentially 3 Aces and 3 Kings left in the deck). The chart below shows the odds of completing or improving a hand once the flop has been dealt and it's down to the Turn and the River cards. A good tight-aggressive player is always familiar with how many outs they have. This type of poker play is based entirely on the probability of certain events taking place and do not take other ambient features into account - like the actions of your opponents. We recommend that you process as much information as possible including the actions of others, but calculating pot odds and card odds must always feature in your decision-making. Here's the run down by number of outs:
We can compare these odds with making Flushes and Straights with only 3 of the 5 required cards on the Board and in your hand. These hands, where you need both remaining Community Cards to fall for you, are known as Backdoor draw. The odds here are much longer as you need to get both the Turn and the River card right to make your hand:
The only sensible advice when having these last three situations before you is to fold. Pot Odds and Card Odds: here comes the science!
Playing smart Poker you compare the odds of making your hand - the Card Odds - and the odds of reward - the Pot Odds. So, if the odds of making your hand are bigger than the Pot Odds then it doesn't make sense, based on probabilities, to play the hand. You should fold. The percentage players look for where the card odds are shorter than the pot odds, and generally play the hand. Many players go one step further and, based on how much in their favour the odds are, decide on value of their raise based on the degree of favourability. Here are some examples:
- The Pot is worth $20
- To stay in you have to call for $4
- Therefore the Pot Odds are 5:1
- Your Pockets Cards are: Ace Hearts; 6 Hearts
- The Flop has boarded: 8 Clubs; 2 Hearts; and King Hearts
- The Card Odds for making a Flush are 4:1 with 9 outs
As the odds for making your hand are better than the Pot odds, it is a value call, so your action is to call.
- The Pot is worth $8
- To stay in you have to call for $1
- Therefore the Pot Odds are: 8:1
- Your Pocket Cards are: 5 Spades; 6 Diamonds
- The Flop has boarded: 8 Spades; 9 Hearts; Jack Diamonds
- The Card Odds for making a Straight are 11:1 with 4 outs.
The odds here are not in your favour as it's 11:1 about you making your hand but you will only get 8:1 from the Pot. You should fold.
We recommend that you use these charts and theories for guidelines only. However they are based on mathematical fact and can pay over the long run. Sometimes it's tough to lay down a good-looking hand but we recommend that you don't get married to your hand, as that's a recipe for losing. If you never see the card(s) you needed to make a hand hit the Board after you have folded, then you aren't folding enough!
To help with your decision-making when faced with Card Odds versus Pot Odds decisions, why not print off the chart and keep it alongside? Good luck at the tables and remember, keep it tight!
These tips/guidelines are intended to help you enjoy poker and improve your chances of winning. However, the above should not be regarded as advice and 32Red disclaims any liability or responsibility for the accuracy thereof or for any losses incurred by players following these guidelines.