People consistently get stuck on the concept of understanding pot odds. Irrespective of whether we ‘play the player or the cards’ there invariably come times in poker where we get put to a tough decision, and will be forced to consider pot odds when making our call…or fold, as the case may be. So how can we go about calculating pot odds and using those odds to make the right decision… without getting too caught up in poker mathematics?

It’s actually pretty simple, but before we go any further we should clarify something. This technique isn’t strictly speaking about calculating pot odds.

Pot odds are the ratio of the size of the bet we are required to call to see another card as against the side of the pot. For example, if there was $100 in the pot and we were facing a $25 bet, the pot odds would be 4:1 (100/25 = 4 : 25/25 = 1).

What this technique really does is it allows us to calculate the odds of hitting our winning hand, which we can then compare to the size of the bet relative to the pot (ie. pot odds). If the percentage of the bet in relation to the pot (pot odds) is greater than the chances of hitting our hand, don’t call.

To use this method, we need to be able to count the number of ‘outs’ we have. Outs are cards remaining in the deck which can give us the winning hand.

Let’s use an example. Say we hold AK of spades and the flop comes down 83J with two spades.

First let’s count our poker outs. Any spade is likely to give us a winning hand. There are 9 spades left in the deck (13 to begin with, less two in our hand and two on the board).

Now here’s the method…
To calculate our odds of hitting our flush with the turn and river to come, simply multiply the number of outs by 4.

9 x 4 = 36.

If the number of outs is higher than eight, subtract 1 from your total. That gives us 35. We have roughly a 35% chance of hitting our flush with the turn and river to come.

What if there’s only the river to come? In this case, we multiply our number of outs by 2, and add 1 if we have 6 or more outs.

9 x 2 + 1 = 19.

We have an 19% chance of hitting our flush with only the river card to come.

So now we’ve calculated our chance of hitting the winning hand, how do we know whether we should call a bet?

Lets say in our example above, the blinds are $20/$40 and there are four players including the blinds in the pot pre-flop. That’s a total of $160 in the pot. Let’s say we’re facing a bet of $40. Our pot odds are 4:1 or 25%.

Remember, the guiding principle is that if the percentage of the bet in relation to the pot is greater than the chances of hitting our hand, don’t bet.

We’ve just calculated our odds of hitting our flush draw at 35% (roughly 3:1). This means the chance of hitting our winning hand is better than the pot odds, and is an easy call.

This is a really simle and fast way of calculating poker pot odds, and can serve us well in pressure situations.

So what if the bet was $80? This gives us pot odds of just 2:1, and the odds of hitting our hand is still 3:1. Now our hand odds are worse than the pot odds. Should we fold?

To answer that question, it requires a consideration of implied odds.

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