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Explain Poker Like I’m Five: Pot Odds

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Jan 07, 2015


When you’ve played poker for years, it’s easy to forget that technical poker speak may as well be a different language. Many players just picked up a deck of cards for the first time and are wondering what the hell a reverse implied range merge against a large stack to pot ratio is.

Maybe you are new to poker as well and want to start analyzing the game at a deeper level, but the lingo and foreign concepts get in the way. To help, Card Player brings you this brand new series, Explain Poker Like I’m Five.

Every issue, we’ll take on a new term or idea, perhaps one you might come across elsewhere in this very magazine, and we’ll break it down to its simplest components.

The Concept: Pot Odds

What Is It?

The ratio of the current pot size to the cost of a bet determines pot odds. Poker players use this ratio to determine whether or not they should continue in a hand. This number is often converted into a percentage which is then evaluated alongside the percentage of the time a player believes he will win the hand. If the player is getting the correct pot odds to continue, generally speaking, they should not fold because their hand has a positive expected value.

Okay, Now Explain It Like I’m Five

Pot odds tell poker players whether or not you’ll make money by calling.

Give Me An Example

You are playing in a $5-$10 no-limit hold’em cash game. A player raises to $30 preflop from middle position and you call on the button with JDiamond Suit 10Diamond Suit. The big blind also calls, putting $95 in the pot. The flop comes down ADiamond Suit QDiamond Suit 2Spade Suit, giving you a royal flush draw and gutshot straight draw. All three of you check and the turn is the 5Club Suit.

Assuming your opponent is ahead with a pair of aces, you have 12 clean outs on the river, which would be all of the remaining diamonds and the three additional kings. There are 46 unknown cards left in the deck, 12 of which give you the best hand, meaning that roughly 26% of the time, you will make your hand on the river.

The big blind checks again and your opponent moves all in for $70. You’ll have to call $70 to win $165 total. That makes the current pot odds 42%, or in ratio form, the pot is laying you approximately 2.4 to 1. You only have 26% card equity, so you should fold.

If your opponent moves all in for $30, however, you’ll have to call $30 to win $125 total. That makes the current pot odds 24% or a little more than 3 to 1. Since your 26% card equity is greater than the pot odds, you should call.

Sometimes, your opponent will bet an amount that prices you out of calling, but your hand is disguised enough that you are confident you can extract more value from it on the river should you make your draw. If that’s the case, then your hand’s implied pot odds may be enough to justify a call on an earlier street where you aren’t getting the correct pot odds to continue. We will discuss implied pot odds in a future issue.

Additionally, pot odds can be used to determine how much you should bet in order to protect your own hand. Profitable players bet an amount that causes their opponents to make pot odds mistakes. ♠