In another article I showed you how to count your outs and turn those outs into card odds. Your card odds tell you how often you’re going to improve your hand.

But knowing your card odds isn’t enough. You still need to know whether or not making a call is profitable. In other words, sometimes it will be profitable to call with your draw (whatever it is) and other times it won’t.

What you need to do is compare your card odds to your pot odds. Pot odds are what I’m going to help you figure out now.

Pot Odds: What Are They and Why You Need Them

What are pot odds?

Pot odds are the ratio of how much money is in the pot compared to how much you have to call to win it.

For example, say the blinds are 10/20 and 4 players limped in front of you. The pot is 110 chips and your cost is 20 chips to call. The ratio between the two are your pot odds.

Pot odds are important to learn because you will use them in your decisions all the time. Any time you have to make a call you will have pot odds. It’s important to figure out your pot odds because when compared to your card odds, or your hand versus your opponent’s range, you’ll be able to figure whether or not a call is profitable (over the long term).

How to Calculate Pot Odds

The process to calculating pot odds is straightforward. And you come across the same odds so often that once you know those you’ll be better off memorizing them. I listed the most used odds at the end of this article.

This is how you figure it out your pot odds though:

Using my example above, there is 110 chips in the pot and it’s 20 to you to call. The easiest way to figure out your odds is to put it into a fraction/ratio like this…

  • 20/110 or 110:20

… and then break it down to the smallest fraction/ratio possible. You do that by finding the most common denominator, which in this case is 10, and dividing both sides by it. When you do that you get:

  • 2/11 or 11:2

Now, you can leave your pot odds like this if you want. However, if you convert your poker outs/card odds to a percentage, you’ll want to do that with your pot odds too, just to make the next step easier.

To do that, just take your investment, divide that by the pot plus your investment and multiply by 100 (to turn it into a percentage). For example:

  • 2 / (11 + 2) * 100 = 15.4% pot odds

Either way, you now know your pot odds and can move on to the next step.

Comparing Pot to Card Odds to Draw to Hands Profitably

The next step is to compare your pot odds to your card odds to see if you can draw to your hand profitably. All you do is compare the two, and if your card odds are higher than your pot odds, then a call is profitable.

For example, say you have 4 to a flush on the flop — so 9 outs. From my poker outs and card odds page you know that we can quickly figure out our card odds by multiplying our outs by 2 and then adding 1 to the total. (9 x 2) + 1 = 19%.

The pot has 120 chips in it and our opponent bets 40. So there is 160 chips in the pot and it costs us 40 to call. This gives us pot odds of 4:1 or 20% pot odds.

Now lets compare the two:

Card odds: 19% | Pot odds: 20%

In this case it would be slight -EV (unprofitable) to make the call. We would want card odds of at least 21% for a call to be profitable here.

Note: I just came up with this example off the cuff and it came out closer than I thought. You could make an argument to call here if you had implied odds, but that’s an advanced topic saved for another article.

Pot Odds Are For All in Situations Too

One thing I didn’t want to forget to mention is that you will use pot odds for all in situations, too. So many people talk about pot odds and how it relates to drawing to hands on the flop and turn, but they neglect to mention anything about pot odds and all in situations before the flop.

It’s pretty simple though. Instead of thinking in terms of outs, you’ll think in terms of hand ranges or equity.

For example, say you have ace-king suited before the flop at 50/100 in a turbo sit n go. You raise it up to 250 chips, leaving 1250 behind. The pot has 500 chips in it now.

An opponent in the cutoff with 1500 chips decides to shove all in. The pot now has 2,000 chips in it and it’s 1250 to you to call. With 2,000 in the pot and 1250 to call, our pot odds look like this: 2000 to 1250 or 8 to 5. This comes out to 38.5% pot odds.

The next step is to determine your opponents hand range. Given the dead money in the pot and his position, we’ll say that he’s doing this with: 22+/A9s+/AT+/KTs+/KJ+/QJs+ or about 14% of hands. We need to figure out how well ace-king suited does against that range of hands. To do that, open up PokerStove (it is free) and plug-in the numbers. I did that, and I got that ace-king suited versus that range is 59% to win.

So once again we compare the numbers. Remember, we want our card odds, range, equity, etc to be better than the price (pot odds) we’re getting.

Equity: 59% | Pot odds: 38.5%

This is a snap call. So profitable to call here. And you could call much wider in this spot too — 33s+ and a lot of your broadways, to be exact.

Pot Odds to Remember

The last thing I wanted to do was leave you with some common pot odds to remember. These are the odds I mentioned earlier that you’ll come across often enough to make it worthwhile to memorize.

  • 4:1 = 20%
  • 3:1 = 25%
  • 2:1 = 33%
  • 1.5:1 = 40%
  • 1:1 = 50%

The great thing about memorizing these is that if you do come across a different number, say 3.5:1, it’s real easy to make an educated guess knowing what 4:1 and 3:1 are. And you don’t have to worry about getting it exact — close enough is fine.

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