Nothing is more fundamental than pot odds, maybe hand rankings, but pot odds are required to understand the game. Pot odds in poker is the first fundamental concept needed to grasp other more complex concepts. It is simply the price offered on a bet. Just like any lottery ticket or casino game offers odds, you and your opponents offer odds to each other, and you control weather you take the odds offered and what odds you will offer your opponent. The goal is simply to take advantage of your opponent offering favorable odds, and make sure the odds you offer do not allow you to be taken advantage of. So lets get started!
What are Pot Odds
Do you know the difference between 1/3 and 1:3? you probably know that if you win “1/3” you win 33.3% of the time right? What about when you are “1:3 for” or “3:1 against” which are the same mathematical odds and equal to winning 25% of the time. This is a truly basic concept and I am sure most people reading this already knew this information, but how well do you know it and is it at the level of Unconscious Competence? Odds are simply an expression of probabilities. In poker and gambling odds are often expressed as odds against because it makes offering a bet easier to understand, you also can quickly see how much you win with respect to the “money odds” offered on the bet. For example if you are getting offered 5:1 on your money you know that if you win, you will get $5 for every dollar you wager. This is not to say you will actually win this bet 1 time and lose 5, it is simply what you will get paid if and when you win.
Examples of Pot Odds in Poker
So when you are facing a bet you are being offered odds on that given situation. If you have a $10 pot and your opponent bets $7, he has just laid you some odds on the situation. You can take that bet (call) or you can up the wager and offer him some odds (raise) or you can pass on the bet, this is the equivalent of walking past the blackjack table (sort of) and deciding not to make a wager. In poker everything starts around this basic concept, You are being offered 17:7 pot odds. In poker, it is usually good to reduce pot odds as much as possible so that you can compare situations easier. so to reduce this we would divide 17 by 7 which is 2.42… we can round this off by saying “we are getting 2.4:1 odds on a call.” This information doesn’t really tell us how to play, but before you can make playing decisions on poker you should understand your odds on a call and the odds you offer your opponent on a raise.
Mastering Pot Odds
These fundamental concepts must be learned to the level of unconscious competence meaning that every hand you play you should be aware of the odds you are getting. Many times as poker players we want to learn about what hands to call with and what hands to raise or fold. Where we get caught up is when “non-standard” things come up. A perfect example of this is when we face a min raise. We learn that we should c-bet in a given situation, and fold to a standard raise which is maybe 3x our bet, but then we get min-raised. So versus a standard raise we bet 7 into 10 and our opponent raises to 21 meaning 10+7+21=38 and it is the raise (21) minus our bet (7) which is $14 to call in a $38 pot. We express this as 38:14 or 2.7:1 pot odds. However when we are only min raised our opponent raises to 14 and we are now getting 10+7+14:1 or 31:7 odds, we can reduce that to about 4.4:1 odds meaning our opponent is offering much better odds. This can mean many things, but it is not what we studied so we may not play correctly.
Try not to learn the “standard play” learn the fundamentals and develop a strategy around them. If your plays are based around a fundamental understanding of the game, and math associated with it, you will be able to make good decisions in less familiar situations.
Practice pot odds over and over again, You need to always know what odds your opponent is giving you and what odds you give your opponent each time you bet. Practice what bet sizes and raise sizes give your opponent different odds, and what odds you are getting, you should be able to state this within about 3-5 seconds, and even faster by the time you are playing multiple tables.
HINT: Many pot odds come up over and over, these should be learned first and straight memorized. These standard sizes are half pot, 2/3 pot 3/4 pot and full pot, each of these requires different raise sizes. Knowing these isn’t the end of it, we haven’t talked about stack sizes or implied odds yet. All these factors will affect our bet sizing and calling/raising frequencies, but we have to crawl before we walk.