A basic knowledge of poker odds will add a new dimension of strength to any beginner poker player’s Texas Hold’em strategy. The ability to calculate hand odds and pot odds equips a poker player with the information needed to gauge whether or not their hand is statistically worth the price to stay in the pot to see the next card.
If you have read “Beginner Poker Strategies – Outs“, and have practiced identifying your outs, you are ready to move on to determining pot and hand odds. First we will show you how to calculate the pot odds. The pot odds are simply the ratio between the value of the pot and the amount it will cost you to stay in the hand. You don’t have to be a math whiz, just follow a simple formula.
Example: The pot holds $45, and your opponent bets $5 – bringing the actual value of the pot up to $50 – so you must pay $5 to see the next card and stand a chance of winning that $50. That puts your pot odds at 50:5, which can be simplified (for future use) by dividing both numbers by the number on the right (our cost). This gives us 10:1 pot odds. Keep in mind that the number on the right is divided by itself; it will always reduce to 1.
Now let’s calculate the odds that you will make your hand. There are a couple of approaches to calculating these odds. Since this is poker strategy for beginners, we will teach you the simplest formula for a beginner poker player to estimate the likeliness that s/he will hit an out on the next card.
The quick and easy way to arrive at the figure we want is to multiply the number of outs we have by 2, the result of which is the percentage rate for hitting an out on the next card. So if you have 10 outs, there is a 20 percent chance that the next card is going to improve your hand. To convert that number into a ratio, simply subtract 20 from 100 to get the percentage rate for failure to hit an out. The ratio in this case is 80:20 – failure:success – which now can be reduced the same way we reduced the pot odds. 80/20=4, which puts your hand odds at about 4:1.
For a more detailed look into the calclulation of hand odds (including the full formula) you may want to check out our Odds and Outs info page.
- Outs x 2 = % rate for success on next card
- 100 – % rate for success = % rate for failure
- %failure / %success = failure rate : 1 odds
Weighing the Odds
The entire point of calculating pot and hand odds is to determine whether or not it will be profitable in the long run to call the bet. In the example above, a $45 pot and a $5 bet from an opponent gives us 10:1 pot odds. If the pot odds are greater than the hand odds, you stand to make a statistical profit in the long run, even if you lose this particular hand.
The example 10-out hand had a 4:1 chance of hitting. Your hand odds tell us that you will hit your hand on the next card every 5 times you play this hand. Calling every 4:1 hand with 10:1 pot odds will – regardless of the outcome of this particular hand – inevitably earn you a return on your bet.
However, if the pot odds are 3:1 and your hand odds are 5:1, you will lose money over time if you consistently call the bet. The profit of one pot, in this example, is less than the value of the bets you will lose over time playing these odds. The pot is worth 3 times what it costs you to call, and over the course of six hands with the same odds, you will win the 3 from the pot once, but lose the 1 you paid to call five times – that’s a loss of two calls.
Many strategy guides instruct players to calculate their hand odds on the flop based on the odds of an out hitting on either the turn or the river, instead of confining the odds to the next card. This is done by multiplying the outs by 4 instead of 2. This is great if you just want to know the probability of making your hand anytime after the flop. The fallacy in this is when you use these two-card odds to calculate your pot odds.
A hand with 5 outs will have 4:1 odds when you allow for two chances to hit, but it has 8:1 odds on the next card to land on the board. So if you are betting on a 4:1 hand after the flop, you would likely call an opponent’s $10 bet to a $40 pot (5:1 pot odds on a $50 pot). However, if you don’t hit on the turn, and your opponent bets another $10, bringing the total pot value to $70 ($60 from the previous betting round – including your $10 call), you are looking at 7:1 pot odds with an 8:1 hand. The odds indicate that you should now fold a hand you just paid $10 for. That is why it is recommended to base your hand odds calculations on the next card when comparing to the pot odds, whether it is the turn or the river.