Why calculating implied odds at the poker table is important

by | Mar 22, 2019 | Poker News

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The concept of implied odds at the poker table doesn’t have to be some foreign concept.  Once you grasp the basics, it’s a simple idea and can be used in every game – live, online, cash or otherwise.  

It’s not about understanding the concept, but understanding how to assess the chance that opponents will act or react in a predictable way.  It comes down to being able to see a situation and predict what the outcome will be.

When the cards are dealt and you’re last to act, you need to bet if your odds of winning are greater than the odds offered by the pot.  If not, the smart option is to fold. Remember – the option isn’t to win the hand; it’s to win the game.

Implied odds refer to the ratio of anticipated winnings, which include money that could be spent on subsequent rounds, against the cost of the current bet.  In early rounds, they’re nothing more than an educated guess, since it’s virtually impossible to know how many players will stay in the hand or how much money will make it to the pot in future betting rounds.

Implied odds increase substantially with a hidden hand – looking at a board with three suited cards becomes an obvious target for a flush draw.  However, board cards that are mixed up, but give you a hidden straight, will offer a bigger payout than that flush will for your opponent because the straight isn’t as visible.  This is also why a set with a pair in hand often results in a bigger payout than a set with a pair on the board.

The structures of bets can lead to implied odds, as well.  In Pot-limit and No-Limit games, with the possibility of seeing monster bets, there are greater implied odds than found in fixed-limit games, where the bet size is automatically limited.

Implied odds can also increase or decrease based on player styles.  Players who often call but seldom raise or lead with a bet can increase the implied odds received by you.  This is because you are able to draw more cheaply against those players, knowing that you have better odds of taking the pot if you make your hand.

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Three basic rules need to be considered when calculating the relationship between implied odds and pot odds.  If you are the money favorite on new money, you should probably bet or raise to increase the size of the pot. Imagine you flop a flush draw, are the last player to act and four players have called.  In this scenario, you would almost always raise. The odds of not making the flush are only 1.86-to-1 and, because four players are still in the hand, you have 4-to-1 odds of new money getting into the pot.  If you raise and the other players fold, you collect the pot – either way, you are ahead.

Calling is often the preferred option if you are the money favorite and the implied odds would result in a return should you make your hand.  Ignoring the fact that raising could cause your opponents to fold and allow you to take the pot, raising lowers the implied odds.

The third rule gets to the heart of the calculation.  If you have no or weak implied odds and no or weak pot odds, you are definitely not the money favorite in the hand.  In this case, fold and save your money for the next round. It bears repeating – the option isn’t to win the hand; it’s to win the game.

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