Pot odds are an extremely important concept in poker. In fact, it’s the basis for every single call ever made. Without pot odds, we’d never be able to understand which calls are profitable and which are not. In this article, we’ll explain how to calculate your pot odds and discuss other issues such as equity and implied odds.

How to Calculate Pot Odds when Playing Poker
Calculating pot odds is a relatively simple but extremely important part of the game.

What Are Pot Odds?

“Pot odds” refers to the amount you’ll receive if you win the pot, in relation to what you need to pay in order to call a bet. Basically, betting in poker is no different from placing a wager with a bookmaker or at a roulette table. But your payout is obviously determined by whatever is in the pot at the time.

Pot Odds Example

Let’s say there’s $20 in the pot on the river. Your opponent is first to act and they bet out half the pot. You are now facing a $10 bet and there is nobody left to act behind you.

If you make the call and win, you have invested $10 in order to win a total of $40. That’s a $30 profit, plus your own $10 call. In other words, you have to bet $10 to win $30, which is simplified as $1 to win $3. That’s a 3-to-1 odds.

How to Use Pot Odds

Okay, so now we understand how to calculate pot odds. But what do we do with this information? First of all, we need to link the odds to our actual hand. The most common example is when we are on some kind of draw.

For instance, let’s say after the turn, we have four diamonds and are drawing to the nut flush. We know that there are nine other diamonds in the deck that will complete our hand. With 6 cards revealed to us, there are 46 left and 9 of them will improve our hand. That means almost 20% of the deck helps us.

If 1 in every 5 cards gives us the win, 4 in every 5 do not. That’s odds of 4 to 1. So if our pot odds are offering 4 to 1, we can justifiably make the call and draw to our flush. If the pot odds are even greater, we’re getting tremendous value. If the pot odds are anything less, we know this is not a profitable long-term play.

Calculating Outs and Equity

In order to make these calculations, you need to understand which cards are needed to improve your hand. It’s not always easy to know what your outs are, since poker involves a lot of hidden information. Sometimes you think a card is an out, but it actually helps our opponent too.

As a general rule though, the following cheat sheet will help cover the most common scenarios:

Flush Draw9 Outs
Open-Ended Straight Draw8 Outs
Inside Straight Draw4 Outs
Two Overcards6 Outs
Flush Draw Plus One Overcard12 Outs
Flush Draw Plus Two Overcards15 Outs

If you prefer to think in terms of equity, the rule of thumb is this. Each additional out provides around a 4% chance of hitting on the turn and river. So if you have ten outs, your chances of winning are roughly 40%.

Calculating Pot Odds as a Percentage

Here’s how to calculate your pot odds as a percentage.

  1. Work out the total pot size after you make the call.
  2. Divide the call amount by the pot amount.
  3. Multiply the figure by 100.

So if you are facing a $5 bet into a pot of $2:

  1. Total pot size = $25
  2. 5 / 25 = 0.20
  3. 0.20 * 100 = 20%

Implied Odds

When we talk about pot odds, we are looking at a single decision in isolation. And of course, real games of poker are never that simple. It is often the case that you can be sure an opponent will give you further action later in the hand. The pot may not be laying the correct odds at this moment in time, but when you know you’re going to get a call later on, at a much bigger price, you can sometimes justify taking the wrong price.

For instance, let’s take a game of $2/$4 Limit Hold’em. You are facing a bet of $4 into a $16 pot. That’s pot odds of 5 to 1 (staking $4 to win a total of $20, or $1 to win $5). However, you may know your opponent is invested enough in the hand that they’ll definitely call another bet on the end. If that’s the case, you’re going to win another $4, so your implied odds are 6 to 1. And if a raise is involved, it would rise to 7 to 1.

Final Thoughts

Pot odds are one of the most important concepts to master. Without them, we would never understand what makes a profitable long-term call. Make sure you take the time to understand the idea and spend time practising. Your all-round game will thank you.

If you are ready to start playing, why not sign up for a free account at Natural8, where you can test out what you have learned against real-life players?