Pot Odds In Poker – Master The Numbers
Pot odds in poker use simple math to take a probability-based approach to the game. This guide will give you the tools to calculate pot odds on the spot and make mathematically approved decisions.
What are Poker Pot Odds?
Pot odds are a quick way to calculate your chances of making your hand, which you can compare to the size of a bet you are facing. This comparison will tell you if you have the right price to call, or if you should fold your draw. Using a mathematical approach to the game will help you become a profitable player. Many of the game’s top professionals utilize probability in every decision during a game. Pot odds are widely used in Texas Hold’em, as the game structure allows for quick mathematical calculations that anyone can do in their head.
Texas Hold’em pot odds are used when you have a drawing hand, so you believe your current hand strength is not enough to win the pot, but you have “outs” or cards that will give you a strong hand. Draws can be extremely valuable when made, as your opponent can already have a made hand and be betting into the pot. Drawing can also be costly if you are not utilizing poker pot odds. If you call bets that are too large, you will lose money in the long run. Calling bets that are too large is known as a “negative expected value” play, or -EV for short. When drawing, you want to make +EV calls. While you won’t always hit your draw when you make these calls, in the long run +EV plays will be profitable.
What is Expected Value (EV)?
Expected value is the basis of pot odds poker. The goal of calculating pot odds is to find the percentage chance of hitting your draw and compare it to the bet size relative to the pot. If you have a 25% chance of making your hand, and the bet you are facing is 20% of the total pot, then you have the right pot odds to call. On the other hand, if the size of the bet were 40%, you do not have the right poker pot odds and should fold. So, why do these percentages matter? This is where the concept of expected value comes into play. If the chances of hitting your hand are less than the size of the bet, in the long run you will lose money. You expect to make your hand and win the pot 25% of the time, so consider 25% of the pot your money. If that is the case, why would you pay 33% of the pot if you expect to get 25% back? That would be a -EV move.
Poker decisions need to be considered for the long run. On any given hand, you could fold a draw with 4% equity, and it can come on the river. You may also call an all-in with 60% equity and miss everything. Don’t focus on the individual hands, but rather your overall strategy in poker. If you always make +EV calls you are expected to be profitable in the long run, even if you miss 10 +EV draws in a row.
Calculating Pot Odds – Know Your Outs
The first step in calculating pot odds is determining the chance you have of making your draw, which is your equity in the hand. Once you know your outs, you can begin to calculate your odds of hitting the draw. There are multiple poker odds charts available that will show you your outs for a given draw. The below guide has the most common draws you will have in Texas Hold’em and other flop games.
Gutshot or Inside Straight Draw – 4 Outs
A gutshot is a straight draw where one card value will give you a straight. If you have 8-9 and the flop is A-5-6, you will make a straight if a 7 comes on the turn or the river. Since there are four of each card value in the deck, you have 4 outs.
Open-Ended Straight Draw – 8 Outs
An open-ended straight draw is when you have four cards in a row and can hit the bottom or top card to make your straight. If you have 10-J and the flop comes Q-K-3, you can make a straight with a 9 or an A. Hence the term “open-ended”; you can hit the card on either end of your four in a row to make a straight. Having an open-ended straight draw means you have 8 outs to make your straight, the four nines and four aces in the above scenario.
Flush Draw – 9 Outs
Each deck has four suits, 13 cards to each suit. If you have two suited cards in your hand and the flop has two of the same suit you are on a flush draw. There are nine remaining cards of your suit, so you have 9 outs.
Gutshot + Flush Draw – 12 Outs
When you have a combo draw, meaning both a straight and flush draw, you have additional outs. If you have 7-8 of spades and the flop is 4-5-Q with two spades, you can hit any 6 or any spade to hit one of your draws. Instinctually you may think you have 13 outs but remember one of the sixes you need for the straight is a spade, so you cannot count that twice. Therefore, a gutshot + flush draw has 12 outs.
Open-Ended + Flush Draw – 15 Outs
Having an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw is very powerful, as there are eight outs for your straight and nine outs for your flush. Again, we cannot count outs twice, so two of your eight outs for the straight are already counted in the flush outs. Therefore, you have 15 outs with an open-ended + flush combo draw.
Beware of Outs Changing
As each new card comes your number of outs may change, so it is important to calculate your outs correctly on each street. If you have 9-10 of hearts and the flop comes 7-8-A with one heart, you have an open-ended straight draw. On the flop you have eight outs to make your straight, so you have a 16% chance of hitting it on the turn (32% by the river). If the turn is the 2 of hearts, you now have a combo draw, both an open-ended straight draw and a flush draw, so you have 15 outs. Your equity for the river is now 30%, 15 outs multiplied by 2.
On the other hand, if you flop the low end of an open ender, so you have 7-8 and the flop comes 2-9-10, you currently have an open ender with eight outs. If the turn is a Q you may not want to count a river J as a safe out. When the J does hit the river, the board is 2-9-10-Q-J, so any Kx hand has a higher straight than your 7-8. In this case, it is likely smart to take caution and consider your draw to just be a gutshot on the turn, looking for one of the four remaining sixes. This means you only have 8% equity.
Adding Pair Outs to Your Pot Odds
There may be some situations where you have an overcard or two, and you believe making a pair with one of these will win you the hand. This can often be the case if you have a strong flush draw and the board has lower cards. Let’s say you have A-K of clubs and the flop comes J-6-2 with two clubs. You have nine outs to your flush, but you also have six cards that will give you top pair with top kicker. Any A or K gives you the best possible one-pair hand, so you may be counting those as outs depending on your opponent.
If you are counting your pair outs, you have an additional six outs, three Ks, and three As. Add these six outs to your flush draw and you have 15 outs. You may not always want to count your pair outs though, as sometimes they may not be good enough to win the pot. It all depends on your opponent and your read on the situation.
How to Calculate Pot Odds: The 2/4 Rule
Now that you have your outs, some quick math will help you calculate your odds of making the draw. Using the 2/4 rule, you can do some simple multiplication to find your chances of hitting your draw. Take your number of outs and multiply it by 2, this gives you the percent chance you have of making your draw on the next card. To know your chance of hitting a flopped draw by the river, multiply your outs by 4 as there are two cards to come.
For example, let’s say you have Q-J of diamonds and the flop comes A-4-5 with two diamonds. Currently, you have nine outs to make your flush, and we are on the flop, so your odds of hitting the flush by the river are 36% (18% on the turn and 18% on the river).
Calculating Pot Size
Now that you have your odds of making the draw, it is time to calculate the size of the bet relative to the pot. This is commonly done as a ratio, which can then be converted into a percentage. First, let’s find our ratios. To build the ratio you would put the amount you stand to win on the left side and the amount you have to risk on the right. If the pot is six chips and your opponent bets three chips, your ratio is 9:3 or 3:1. You always want to find the smallest ratio possible, aiming to have the number on the right be 1. This makes converting to a percentage much easier.
Now that we have our ratio, we can convert it to a percentage. To find the percentage, take the amount you need to risk (1) and divide it by the total size of the pot including the amount you need to call (3+1=4). When getting 3:1 odds on a call, we would divide 1 by 4 to get 0.25, or 25%. If the size of the call relative to the total pot is 25%, you need greater than 25% equity to make the call. If you have only 18% equity and make a call that is 25% of the pot, this is a -EV call and should be avoided. When you have the same equity as the size of the pot, calling is a break-even play, so it is up to you.
Common Bet Sizes
Below are some common bet sizes and the pot odds associated with them. For simplicity’s sake, I made the pot size $100 for each calculation. No matter the dollar values used, if a player bets one of the below sizes, the price ratio will be the same. There are many poker odds charts online that will show you the common bet sizes and what ratio the price is to the size of the pot.
The pot is $100 and your opponent bets $25, or a quarter pot. This is a fairly small sizing but can be common in some games. First, to determine the ratio we take the $125 we can win, and the $25 we have to call, so our ratio is 125:25 or 5:1. When you are getting 5:1 on a call, you need at least 16.67% equity in the hand to continue (1/(1+5) = .01667).
Betting one-third of the pot will lead to a ratio of 4:1. For example, the pot is $100 and your opponent bets $33, you are getting $133:$33 or roughly 4:1. You need 20% equity in the hand when getting 4:1 on a call, 1/5 = 0.2.
Your opponent bets $50 into $100, exactly half the pot. This means you are getting 3:1 on a call, so you’ll need 25% equity or better to continue (1/4 = 0.25).
A two-thirds pot bet can be represented as 5:2 or 2.5:1. If the pot is $100 and your opponent bets $66, you have 166:66 or 2.5:1. You’ll need at least 28% equity to call this bet (1/3.5 = 0.28).
When the player bets the full size of the pot, you are getting 2:1. 2:1 equates to 33% equity needed to continue in the hand.
You will often be making slight adjustments in your calculations for simplicity’s sake. If the player bets $62 into a $100 pot, you can go ahead and consider that a 2/3 size which equates to 2.5:1, so you’ll need 28% equity. Rounding to the nearest size listed above will help you calculate quickly and efficiently. Pot odds aren’t meant to be an exact science, so rounding is completely fine, as you will round up and down throughout your poker career.
Putting Pot Odds into Practice
Being able to calculate the price you are getting in ratio and percentage form as well as calculating your equity in the hand is only the first step. Practicing this concept is where the importance lies. You must always take into account which street you are on, as this will drastically affect how you calculate your equity.
Remember the rule of 4 and 2. Multiplying your outs on the flop by 4 gives you your chance of hitting by the river, multiplying by 2 is the chance of hitting on the turn. If you are facing a bet on the flop that is not an all-in, you should be multiplying by 2, not by 4. If your opponent bets an amount less than all-in, there is no guarantee they will check the turn, so you should only calculate your odds of hitting the draw on the next card. If the flop bet you are facing is an all-in, you can multiply your outs by 4 as you are guaranteed to see the turn and river.
Using Pot Odds as the Aggressor
We’ve talked about using pot odds when you are facing a bet, but how can you use these calculations to your advantage as the aggressor? Let’s say you have a made hand like A-A on a flop of 5-6-J. 3-4, 4-7, and 7-8 all have open-ended straight draws on this board, meaning they can profitably call a bet that gives them 4.5:1 or better. Use this to your advantage as the aggressor by giving them a price that is worse than 4.5:1. If you bet just under half the pot, they will have a price slightly below 3:1, so calling with a straight draw is -EV. If your opponent is not on a draw, laying a price like this is still good as they will likely still call with made hands that are worse than yours, like J-Q in this case.
By giving your opponent a bad price, they will either fold, awarding you the pot, or they will make a bad call. When your opponent makes a -EV call, it is by default a +EV bet from you. They are putting in more money than they are expected to get back over the long run. If you consistently put your opponents in these spots, you will see positive results over the long run. The key to poker is capitalizing on your opponent’s mistakes, so if you can create situations where players will make mistakes, you will make money in the long run.
Pot Odds Quiz
Solidify your poker pot odds knowledge with this quiz! The answers are at the bottom of the page.
- Your opponent bets $75 into a $125 pot. Call or fold?
Your Hand: K-Q diamonds
Board: 10-J-5 two diamonds
- Your opponent bets $50 into a $70 pot. Call or fold?
Your Hand: 8-9 off-suit
Board: 6-7-A-2 rainbow (three suits)
- Your opponent bets $55 into a $90 pot. Call or fold?
Your Hand: 9-10 of spades
Board: K-Q-4-6 two spades
- Your opponent bets $100 into a $140 pot. Call or fold?
Your Hand: A-K of clubs
Board: 2-5-8-10 two clubs
- Your opponent goes all-in for $350 into a pot of $200. Call or fold?
Your Hand: 5-6 of diamonds
Board: 3-4-9 two diamonds
- The pot is $200 on the turn. How much should you bet to give a flush draw (nine outs) a bad price to call?
- The pot is $150 on the flop. You have A-K of hearts and the flop is 10-J-Q with two hearts. What is an amount to bet that will give your opponent a good price to call with a flush draw?
Texas Hold’em Pot Odds vs. Other Games
Throughout this page, we have looked at No-Limit Texas Hold’em examples. Pot odds are synonymous with Texas Hold’em since it is the most popular poker variant and the calculations lend themselves to no-limit flop games. If you are trying to use pot odds in a limit Hold’em game, you will find yourself getting the right odds to call most of the time. This is because you are rarely facing bets larger than 1/4 of the pot, so you will only ever need 20% or less to continue with a draw. Keep this in mind in limit Hold’em and look for more than slightly +EV calls.
For stud games, you cannot use the 2/4 rule, as that is based on only seeing the board and your two hole cards. In Stud you are seeing more cards and will receive four cards one at a time after first street, so there is no simple calculation for your chances of hitting your draw on the next card. For best practices, Texas Hold’em pot odds shouldn’t be used in other games.
When to Use Poker Pot Odds
The short answer is to use pot odds with every decision. If you have a drawing hand and are facing a bet, calculating your pot odds is crucial to making good calls and folding when necessary. When you have a made hand and are facing a bet, you can use pot odds to see what type of price your opponent is laying. If you think you have greater equity than the price, you can call or likely raise to capitalize on your equity. When you have a made hand and it is likely your opponent is drawing, use pot odds to give them a -EV price. The opponent will either fold and you win or call which is a mistake. If you consistently allow your opponents to make mistakes that you avoid, you will be a profitable player. There is no easier way to force mistakes on an opponent and avoid them yourself than utilizing poker pot odds.
Quiz Answer Key
- Call, the price is ~2.7:1 (200:75) and you have 30% equity (15 outs to the turn).
- Fold, the price is ~2.5:1 (120:50) and you have 16% equity (nine outs to the river).
- Fold, the price is ~2.6:1 (145:55) and you have 24% equity (12 outs to the river). This is close, but still a -EV call.
- Call if you count As and Ks as your outs. Price is 2.4:1 with 30% equity (15 outs) and only 29% needed. If you do not count the As and Ks you should fold.
- Call, the price is 1.5:1 (550:350) and you have 60% equity to the river since this is an all-in you multiply your 15 outs by 4. Despite this being a massive overbet, this is still a +EV call.
- $70+, your opponent needs roughly 4:1 or better to call, so a 1/3 pot size bet or smaller gives them a +EV call. By betting $70+ they are getting worse than 4:1 and calling is a mistake.
- $35-, by giving your opponent a good price to call with a flush draw, you can win a larger pot against them if they make their flush. You have a made straight and the nut flush draw yourself, so in this case, you would want another flush draw to get a good price to call.