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Pot odds are absolutely essential in taking your poker game to the next level. Most beginner players after a few hundred hands can figure out their odds of winning fairly easily. It doesn’t take long to figure out your odds drawing for a flush, a pocket pair, or even if your high card can hold out, but does that mean that you should always bet when you’re in the lead or fold when you’re behind? Of course not! This is where the pot odds begin to have a basic affect on how players should be playing their hands.

Pot odds are the odds you are getting from the pot when drawing, without adding in any future bets. Pot odds aren’t used for someone who is ahead or has the nuts, but you use pot odds when you are behind in a hand and drawing for a strong hand. Pot odds help you determine when you should go for the draw, and when you should just fold. Pot odds tell you whether there is enough money in the pot to justify chasing the big hand or not, which is another way of saying you are determining the expected value of that one hand in that situation.

There is a fairly easy mathematical formula for pot odds. Don’t groan! I was never a big math person, but these aren’t the old algebra formulas that give you migraines, this is an easy one to figure out:

Pot Odds Formula: (pot + bet)*(chance of hitting) = odds; good odds are when odds > the bet.

For example:

Your Hand: Flop:
:9c: :tc: :ac: :6c: :kh:

Let’s say in this situation you know you’re facing at least an ace or king, if not both. So with the flush you will win, but without it you will almost certainly lose. Well now to figure out your odds you figure the 13 clubs in a deck, minus your two, minus two on the board. So there are 9 clubs left that might show up. In this case you have right around a 20% chance of getting the flush on the turn. So here’s where the pot odds come in.

Suppose the pot is 90, and the bet is 10, and now it’s decision time. So the math goes pot plus bet ($90 + $10) multiplied by your percentage of winning .2 (20%). 100 times .2 is 20. 20 is indeed greater than 10 (the bet), so in this situation you should call.

Now hypothetically, let’s say the exact same cards come up in the exact same situation, except there is only $30 in the pot, and the bet is still $10. In the math here ($30 + 10) multiplied by the percentage (.2). 40 times .2 equals 8. $8 is not greater than $10, it’s less. That means with this small a pot it is not worth chasing and you should fold. This is a small difference in value, obviously if your opponent bets $20 this is a no brainer to fold. If it’s not profitable at $10 to chase, it’s not going to get any better.

So these are pot odds. They may seem a little bulky at first, but soon they will become second nature, and you may notice that by chasing one or two flushes you never chased before, and throwing away a couple straights you used to chase, that even a small tweak may make a huge difference in your profit margin. Keep at it, and you’ll love watching your bank roll grow!