Many professional poker players bristle when their beloved game is referred to as simple ‘gambling’. Wikipedia defines gambling as: "wagering money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money or material goods". Games played with dice are dependent largely on luck. Every single throw of the dice can ‘make or break you’ and whichever way you look at it, you are gambling on the outcome. No amount of calculations will help and no system has been proven to help determine the outcome and help you win your game. However, if the truth be told, it is very possible to win at poker by making skillful calculations. Because in poker we are able to count the pot and calculate the odds against making a hand, we have the advantage of choosing to fold, bet, call or raise.
The most important thing we need to remember is that there is a direct relationship between the odds against making our hand and money we think we can win if we are lucky. So while luck also plays a factor, we can also learn to play a skilled game of high-percentage poker instead of merely ‘gambling’ at poker. To do so, we first have to understand the concept of pot odds and how to use them.
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Many players, especially newcomers, have a problem understanding the mere concept of pot odds. They feel that the task of making critical calculations, especially in the heat of the game, is too difficult and these players tend to allow luck to determine the outcome of their game instead of bothering with pot odds.
Very simply, pot odds are the relationship between the size of your bet (whether you are making or calling) and the number of bets in the pots. Pot odds are always expressed as a ratio. Take this example: If there is $12 in a pot and you call a $3 bet – your pot odds are 4:1.
Another example would be if there was $50 in the pot and you need $10 to call. This could be translated as the pot odds for your particular call are 5:1.
A final way to of understanding what pot odds are is as follows: If there is $10 in the pot and you have to call a bet of $2, your pot odds are 5:1. Using the same pot, and having to call a $5 bet, your pot odds are 2:1.
How Should Pot Odds be Used?
Once you have achieved a grasp of understanding what pot odds actually are, you will need to learn how to use and apply them to your game. Firstly, you need to always be aware of the size of the pot. The method of doing this may differ between different versions of poker. For example, if you’re playing a version where the bets double, such as Hold’em, the player needs to count the big bets as two small bets. Counting the pot is slightly harder if you are playing a version such as No-Limit poker, however it will be ultimately to your advantage if you persevere.
You should evaluate your chances of winning. Are they higher than 5:1? The best move in this case would be to call. Are they higher than 5:1? Always fold if they are!
Once you’ve calculated your pot odds, you should connect them to the value of your hand. This entails estimating the hands of your opponents and understanding your chances of making a better hand.
Pot odds can be applied during different game situations. For example, they can be used when calling bets or when drawing to a straight or flush.
There are various tools and calculators on the internet and in book stores that could help players make pot odds calculations. However, players will obviously have difficulty accessing software and books around a poker table and should eventually learn to figure out their odds without the help of these aids.
What are Simple Pot Odds?
Another name for simple pot odds is expressed pot odds. These are used when a player is considering a call where no more betting will be taking place. This could be a bet in the final round of the game, for example. The ratio for simple pot odds bets could be described as a bet-to-pot ratio – or the ratio of the size of the potential bet to the pot size.
What are Implied Pot Odds?
The concept of implied pot odds was invented by David Sklansky and it involves the estimation on how much money a player is likely to win from a bet if he hits one of his outs. This is in contrast to simple pot odds which take into consideration the money that is presently in the pot. Implied pot odds are used in situations where betting will still occur and the player’s hand may improve despite its poor situation.
It is very difficult to calculate implied odds for hands that may win and complex mathematics is required for precise calculations. However a general rule of thumb is as follows: The larger the pot, the more inclined you will be to chase hands. If the yet-to-bet players are tight, then the pot won’t get much bigger. If these players are loose but passive, the implied pot odds are higher and you should chase hands. However, if the players are loose and aggressive, the implied pot odds are lower and you should be wary of chasing hands.
Implied pot odds are traditionally used in no-limit poker games. The reasoning behind this is obvious – if you have a powerful hand that hits in no-limit poker, you will very likely take your player’s entire stack. This cannot happen in limit poker versions of poker.
What are Reversed Implied Odds?
So what happens when a player is sure to win the minimum if he or she has the best hand at the table, but is also likely to lose the maximum if he or she doesn’t have the best hand? This is called reverse implied pot odds because of the aggressive bets and raise and the immediate consequences.
Should Pot Odds be Used in Poker Tournaments?
Most experts agree that pot odds should be used for all poker games in order to ensure that you calculate your every move. However, it is also agreed that pot odds are not as important in tournaments, as they are less of a factor than they are in normal poker play. Usually, professionals advise tournament players to use pot odds as a last resort if they are not sure whether to call or not. Other things could (and should) be taken into account, such as the number of players around the table and the type of players.
As we noted earlier, it is quite possible to purchase a range of tools to help you calculate the pot odds ratios. Calculating them on your own may look extremely complex when you first consider the idea, however – as with everything in life – practice makes perfect and it will soon become second nature once you familiarize yourself with the various options. Try to memorize the chances of various hands improving on the next card as this will save you time at the poker table. Also, try and heed what the pot odds are in different situations. Playing poker more often and genuinely trying to learn how the concept of pot odds is applied will greatly improve your chances of winning in the long run.
The entire concept of pot odds is what separates the amateur players from the professionals. Some players cannot be bothered with the calculations and figure that they have just as much chance as winning as the next player, without taking the trouble to think about the pot odds. However, poker experts have proven without a doubt that this type of mathematical calculation works and it is what separates the winners from the losers. Winning players will be able to determine whether a bet is profitable or not, while losing ones will not.
Poker play is not simply about how many pots you win in your game session -it is about investing well. If you understand the whole concept of pot odds, you can decide whether calling or folding your cards will be a good investment in the long run.
Pot odds can put you on the path to becoming a poker winner and it is essential to keep pot odds in the front of your mind in this volatile and exciting game.
Posted by CCJ Team