It is important to understand pot odds and to be able to calculate them in order to be able to decide whether or not to call. Instead of playing blind, if you understand pot odds you can work out the best decision to make for any betting round. When you call a bet, you aim is to win the money that is in the pot. You do not have to be profitable every time, but you need to understand your odds so that you are profitable enough times to at least break even, or preferably come out ahead.
Some Examples of Pot Odds
If you are playing Texas hold’em and hold four to a nut flush on the turn, there will be 46 unknown cards in the game – 52 cards minus your two hole card and the 4 community cards. Out of the 46 unknown cards, only 9 are the same suit as your flush draw, meaning that nine cards could help you achieve the nut flush hand, while 37 cards cannot help you.
This translates to odds of 37/9 or in other words, 4.1 to 1 odds against you making your draw.
It is now important to understand what to do with the odds you have calculated. In this scenario, you should only call a bet if there is already 4 times that amount in the pot. If you are playing a $5/$10 limit poker game, you would want to see at least $40 in the pot already for you to call a $10 bet on the river.
Let’s look at another example and look at the inside straight draws. It is the turn and you have 4 outs and 46 unknown cards on the draw. In other words, there are 4 cards that could make you a winner and 46 cards that will not help you.
The odds in these situations are 42/4 = 10.5. This means that in order to justify a call you would need 10 times the amount of the call to be in the pot already. It is unlikely that this call would pay off in the long run, although it could happen.
Understanding the Odds
Many players are scared off by the mathematics involved in calculating odds. In truth, once you understand it, it is not so difficult. The reality is that calculating the odds of a call or bet is what differentiates the top players from the weak players. You need to be able to differentiate a profitable bet from a non-profitable bet in order to ensure that you come out ahead in the long run. If a bet is not profitable, do not make it. You will become a better player from understanding odds.