Poker is a game of incomplete information where you need to calculate your chances of winning based upon the information you have and the amount of money you may expect to win or lose as the case may be. Players tend to start out just by looking at their own hands, in terms of how likely a certain hand is to win against a certain amount of random ones, and then look to calculate simple pot odds as far as what they stand to win at various stages in the hand.
That’s fine, but you also want to be thinking about starting to look to narrow down what you believe an opponent may have based upon what you know, and it’s never to soon to start thinking about that really, as this is necessary to make correct judgements about what to do. However, it’s important to focus a lot on the basics as well as they are the foundation of looking to determine odds, and while this skill isn’t sufficient in itself, it’s necessary.
Simple Tools and Insight You Can Utilize
So what we need to do first of all is to collect as much relevant information as we can and then apply it to what we already know. This starts with what we have as far as a hand. So knowing what the odds are against random hands is something that is definitely good to know. There are odds charts that are readily available that you can study, and you can also play around with a program like Poker Stove where you can see the chances of various hands are of winning, at any stage of the hand. As you get more familiar with this, you can start thinking about what opponents may have, and put in what you think are likely ranges to see how you’ll do against their range.
You may also want to get a poker odds calculator, which are available fairly cheaply, to help along your education here. These calculators are pretty much only good for education purposes only, and the idea is to pay attention to what they are telling you and use that to build your knowledge, to compliment everything else you’re doing. You can also use them to figure out simple pot odds, which is also good for training purposes. Then, as your knowledge and aptitude grows, you can take off these training wheels and look to apply your skills in more advanced and relevant ways as you progress.
By the way, there’s no substitute for effort here in looking to gain better insight into your chances of winning hands based upon what you have and what you believe your opponent may have, although as you get better at this you will become more and more familiar with the simple stuff and be able to incorporate and handle more and more information and do more and more detailed calculations quickly in your head.
You’ll start looking more at things like board textures, overall tendencies of opponents on certain streets and in certain situations, what you think that they think you have, what you can learn from the previous action in the hand, and so on. All this fits together to take your game from looking just at your own cards to looking at your hand more and more in context, and adjusting the odds you feel you have from the general and less accurate to the more specific and more accurate.
Figuring Pot Odds and Implied Odds
The same applies to pot odds, where we take what we know about our chances of winning the hand, whether that’s by going to showdown or taking the hand down by getting everyone to fold, and then apply that to how much money we may expect to win or lose depending on what happens. So, to do this right, we need to look at how much is in the pot now, the simple pot odds, and also how much we can expect to win or lose in addition, which are the implied odds.
Generally speaking, when we look to calculate this, we’re looking to decide whether our hand is strong enough to continue. So a simple example would be to take what we believe our chances are to win, say 1 in 3, and then look at the pot and see how much is there. If our pot odds are 2:1 or better, meaning that we will win twice as much as what we’re risking, then we have the simple pot odds to invest the chips in the play.
So it stands to reason that we need to first master simple pot odds before we move on to implied odds, but just using simple odds will generally have us playing way too conservatively, so we want to get to the stage where we can start counting this extra money in as soon as we can. It’s important not to overestimate this additional money though, as we don’t want to start jumping in by being too loose here, and it’s better to come in a little too low rather than too high. This is especially important in hands against multiple opponents, where there’s more than one player you need to worry about taking you to the cleaners when you’re putting money in the pot too liberally and paying them off too much.
Simple Math You Can Use When Figuring Implied Odds
The easiest way to start figuring implied odds is to start thinking about what portion of their present stack they would be likely to put in, and then use that as a guideline. So for instance if you’re on the turn and you have a flush draw with 9 clean outs, that’s 9/46 or about a 1 in 5 chance of winning (4:1). If there are 15 bets in the pot now and it costs you 10 to call, and you know you can win 40 more chips if you call and hit, you’re really spending 10 to potentially win 65. So your chances are 4:1 but the pot is laying you 5.5:1, and whenever the money odds are higher than your odds to win, it’s profitable to play.
So that’s just a simple example of course, and there’s a fair bit of judgement that can go into both deciding what your odds of winning are and what the implied or overall money odds are. There’s more to it then just counting outs, although that’s a good place to start, and then you can move on to being more accurate about counting full outs and partial ones, where the card may hit you but make a better hand for your opponent as well.
Then once you’ve mastered that, you can look to better define your opponents ranges and add that in to the mix, and also look at things like reverse implied odds where you can hit and lose a lot more. As you get better this will all become easier and you’ll get yourself in many more profitable situations and avoid more that aren’t profitable.