Calculating Pot Odds

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Calculating Pot Odds in Poker 

When you’re playing poker you’re bound to come across critical moments where you have a straight or flush draw (or both) and you’ve been raised by your opponent.  The most important factor when making a difficult decision here is reflecting on the mathematic formula of calculating pot odds. 

Calculating pot odds includes taking into account your hand odds (“outs“) with the pot odds your getting.  If your pot odds are better, you’re receiving good profit for your play in the form of an overlay.  For example, if you’re getting 5 to 1 pot odds on a 10 to 1 draw, you’re receiving very bad odds.  On the other hand, if you’re getting 5 to 1 pot odds on a 2 to 1 draw  it’s a very good profitable situation.  You’re getting a very good spread and will make money on these calls in the long run.  If you’re getting 5 to 1 pot odds for a $50 pot and it only costs $5 to enter you’ll only have to win 1 in 10 to break even (there is positive overlay or EV). 

Calculating Pot Odds in Poker 

Let’s imagine we’re sitting at a $0.25/$0.5 cash table, facing a decision whether to enter a pot offering 11 to 1 pot odds, and 4 to 1 hand odds.  In other words, there is a pot worth $100, with a price to enter of $10 (bringing the total pot to $110 – giving you 11 to 1 pot odds). 

When you’re getting such good odds the mathematics of poker explain you only need to win once in twelve to break even.  Anything more than this is ‘overlay’ or positive EV – the very thing profitable players are looking for.  If we further dwelve into the mathematics of this poker hand, we calculate you’re likely to win this type of hand once every five times (4 to 1) i.e. we’ll lose $10 on four attempts but win $110 on one attempt.  Using the formula for EV, we calculate on average you’ll make $12 average each time you call a pot in this position. 

Pot Odds in Poker – Counting Outs or Hand Odds 

It’s all fun and easy knowing what pot odds are, but how to we find them for our specific hand and calculate exactly what our hand odds are? 

The answer to this if finding out the exact number of ‘outs’ for your hand.  This is called ‘counting outs’ and allows you to work out how many cards there are to complete your drawing hand, so you can calculate your odds of getting it on the turn or river and winning the pot.  A quick tip for how to count outs in poker is to work out how many cards left in the pack, multiply this by two, then add one.  This gives you your percentage or probability of completing a drawing hand.  For example let’s say there are 4 specific cards left in the pack that I need to come up to win the hand.  If you multiply this by 2 and add 1, then we get 9%.  That is, there is roughly a 9% chance we’ll win the hand – and that is the hand odds we use to calculate the pot odds.

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