Poker Pot Odds – Making the Correct Decision

Pot OddsMany of the decisions in poker will be based on what are called pot odds.

Knowing how to calculate pot odds correctly and quickly is an important part of your foundation as a poker player.

Many players make bad decisions due to their ignorance of pot odds and failure to understand the importance of pots odds will cost you a ton of money in the long run.

This article will help you to not only calculate pot odds but it will demonstrate how to use them in real time and show you a quick and easy way to do the maths in your head.

This subject follows on from the topic of Poker Outs in the previous article and so if you haven’t read that yet, then I would recommend going back to read that first.

What are pot odds?

Pot Odds are a way to know if the money you would win from a pot is worth the bet that you have to put into the pot in order to be in with a chance to win it. Think of it as a risk / reward scenario. Will the money you invest in the pot be worth it in the long run? What kind of return will you get for your risk?

Pot Odds will apply mostly when you have a drawing hand such as a straight or a flush draw. This will be quite common in Texas Holdem as you will often find yourself holding two cards that connect with the board but require you to hit further outs to actually make your hand.

Calculating Outs and Pot Odds

We make correct decisions in Poker by understanding our probability of winning the hand (number of outs) and compare that to the risk / reward ratio that the pot is offering (the pot odds)

The first step to knowing the pot odds in a specific hand will be to know how many outs you have to make your draw. We covered this in the last article. The most common draws will be a Straight or Flush draw, but any type of draw will apply to pot odds.

As a quick recap, to determine the number of outs, you simply count how many cards are left in the deck that will complete your draw. If you have 8-9 in your hand and the flop shows: 7-10-2, you have an “open ended” straight draw. You would need a 6 or a Jack to complete your Straight. Since there are four of each in a standard deck, you would have a total 8 outs.

Converting Outs into Probability of Winning

We need to know our number of outs to understand the probability of us winning the hand. Now that we understand how to determine our outs, we must turn that information into something a bit more useful the probability or odds of us hitting one of our outs and winning the hand.

Don’t get scared by these big maths words by the way, they may sound intimidating to those who aren’t good at maths, but trust me, this is really easy and something that anyone can do.

To turn our number of outs into a workable odds figure, we must take the number of outs we have and divide them by the cards left in the deck that we have not seen.

If we follow on our example holding 8-9 in our hand and the board is 7-10-4.

  • We have seen 5 of the cards out of the 52 in the deck.
  • This leaves 47 cards that we have not yet seen.
  • 8 of those 47 cards are our outs and will make our Straight
  • The remaining 39 cards are useless to us.

To put this into a ratio its gives us 39:8 or to simplify take the 39 and divide it by 8 to come up with a number of 4.8, and a simplified ratio of approximately 5:1 or “5 to 1” – do this on a calculator for now, I’ll show you a short cut to use at the tables later on.

What this ratio is saying is that if we played this hand over and over again for every 1 time that a card comes that makes our Straight there would be another 5 hands that it would not. In other words, in every 6 hands, we would make our Straight and win once, and the other 5 times we would lose.

Calculating Pot Odds

This is where Pot Odds will really come into play and this will be the most important part, so pay attention closely!

To determine if a call is correct, you need to know what the pot odds are so that you can compare them to the probability of winning ratio you have just calculated above.

Let’s say the pot contains $40 and your opponent bets $20.

  • Total pot is now $40 + $20 = $60
  • You must call a bet of $20 to win that $60

We want to again convert this to a ratio, which is 60:20 or again if you divide 60 by 20 to come up with 3 you simplify this to 3:1 – your pot odds in this example are 3 to 1.

To understand this again, what this is saying is that in order to break even on this bet of $20 we would need to win 1 hand for every 3 hands that we lost. Again you can do the maths, it would cost us $80 to call $20 in 4 hands. If we lost 3 hands and won only once then we would win $60 plus our $20 bet back for a total of $80 and hence break even.

Using Odds to Make a Decision

So all this effort can’t be for nothing, the culmination of all this is that we are going to use our Probability of Winning and our Pot Odds to make a decision.

To do this you compare the pot odds you are getting to call against the probability that you will make your draw. In this example we are getting pot odds of 3 to 1 and our probability of winning the hand is 5 to 1.

This example is a clear decision, which is to fold. We are not getting the correct pot odds to call. In order to break even we need to win 1 pot in every 4 and we are going to win the hand 1 time in every 6, so we should fold and get out of the hand.

A Short Cut – The Rule of 4 and 2

In order for you to understand we had to go through all the maths properly, but now I am going to show you a quick way to calculate odds in real time without racking your brain too much. After all you won’t want to be pulling your calculator out at the poker table… will you?

You still must work out how many outs you have but once you have the number of outs then working out your probability of winning is as simple as this. Take your outs and multiply the number by 2. So in our example above we would take 8 outs and come up with 16.

This 16, represents the percentage of times you will make your draw with one card to come. This means on the flop you would have a 16% chance to make your straight on the turn and another 16% chance on the river. Basically, you have a 32% chance of making your straight with 2 cards to come (multiply by 4).

When your opponent is all-in on the flop you multiply your outs by 4 since if you call you will get to see 2 further cards without having to put any more chips in the pot. If it is not an all in situation then you are only paying to see 1 card, and would only multiply by 2.

To convert this back to a ratio, take the 16% and work out how many 16% are in 100%. In this case it is approximately 6. So for the one time you will win (the first 16%) there are another 5 times you will lose (the remaining 84% divided by 16) so the ratio would be 5:1. This is the same as we worked out above.


Pot odds in Texas Holdem are really not that difficult to calculate as you can see. It only takes some simple maths to determine them. Once you do it a few times, it will become second nature.

Not only will you use pot odds to determine if a call is correct, as you get more advanced you can also use them to work out how much to bet, to ensure that your opponents don’t have the correct odds to call.

Start practising when you aren’t involved in a hand to become better at calculating odds and you will find that it becomes much easier to “run the numbers” when you are in a hand.


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