Odds and Sods

Posted by David Cowell on September 26, 2010 at 7:33 BST

Knowing your odds of making a top hand in Texas Hold´em Poker is one of the ways of ensuring that you are a profitable player in the long term. If you know that three times out of four you are going to win a hand, then it makes it worth playing every time, because for the one time you lose there are going to be three times that you win.

Figuring out how regularly your hand is going to win, allows you to calculate the amount you should bet to increase the value of your winning hands and maximise your opportunities.

That is why there are odds, pot odds and implied odds. They are not failsafe means to playing successful poker – poker is not a pure science after all – but by combining these principles you should be able to make the most of your best hands.

Odds – The easiest way to work out your odds after the flop are to determine how many cards there are left “unseen” in the pack. If you are holding 2 hearts in your hand and there are 2 hearts on the table, that leaves 9 cards in the pack that can make up your flush.

To calculate your odds of making the flush, divide 9 by 47 – the number of cards left in the pack after the flop – (0.19) and 9 by 46 – the number of cards left in the pack after the river – (0.20) and add the two decimals together. This gives you the odds that 39 times out of 100, the cards will drop that give you the flush.

In bookmakers terms those odds are about 6/4, so if you are playing with one other player on the table, you are betting even money on a 6/4 chance which is poor value. If there are two other players still in the betting, you are now getting 2/1 on a 6/4 chance, and the odds now represent good value.

It ought to be established however, that although the odds are now on your side, the potential is there for somebody to be holding a better flush than you at showdown should you not be holding the ace of hearts.

Pot Odds – Pot odds are the circumstances in which chasing the flush draw against one other player can be justified. If there was a couple of players who limped into the pot pre-flop, who subsequently failed to get the cards they wanted and folded to the first post-flop bet, the value may still exist for you to bet on making your flush.

Example –You are in a multi table poker tournament where the blinds have risen to 75/150, and after the flop the betting comes to you with only one other player remaining in the hand. The pre-flop betting saw 600 chips go into the pot, and your opponent has bet 300, giving a total of 900. You now have to decide whether to call the 300 to give your hand the chance of winning 1200. As your odds of hitting the other heart is 6/4 and the pot odds are 3/1 (900 in the pot/300 required to stay in the hand), this scenario also represents good value.

Implied Odds – Before going leaping in with your stack because value is on your side, you also need to be aware of implied odds. Implied odds are an indication of how much you may still have to put into the pot after the turn and river if you are going to get to showdown. Assuming you called that bet of 300 chips, there are now 1200 chips in the pot.

Your opponent raised by half the pot after the flop, and he may feel that this is an appropriate amount to raise again to keep you in the game after the turn. Therefore, it is going to cost you another 600 chips after the turn card has been dealt. If you call this bet, you will have contributed a total of 1050 chips to a pot containing 2400 chips and you are just dipping into the area of negative value.

In this instance, any bet following the river can be ignored because if your heart does not come out, you will not be calling him – and if it does show, you should be raising him back.

Pot odds and implied odds are not too difficult to work out if you are playing two-handed or when you are the last to act and have all the information about what is in the pot. Where it does get complicated is when you are in mid-position with aggressive players either side of you, and that is why poker is not a pure science and a game where sometimes you just have to rely on your gut feeling.

The “Sods” in the title? That is sods law.

Sods law states that you are chasing a flush in a three-handed game and your gut tells you to fold, even though the odds tell you otherwise …….and the heart comes out on the river!