Odds Are, You Need to Know Them!

A friend playing in a $1-2 NLH game at the Venetian folded an open-ended straight draw for a $65 all-in bet in a $165 pot. Another opponent yet to act had $80 left, though he had raised pre-flop and checked. The board was Tc-9c-4d, and my friend held the QhJh. The way the hand had played made it unlikely an opponent had a flush draw. Also, a queen or jack also might have been good. Getting over 2-1/2 to 1current odds when he was 2-1 against making just the straight, my friend’s fold was terrible.
If you want to play poker well, you need to be able to calculate odds, current odds, “hot and cold” odds and implied ones. If you can’t determine your odds, you’ll make serious errors.
Current odds are the odds that you currently face. If its $30 to call and the pot is $100, your current odds are 100-30 or 3-1/3 to 1.
Hot and Cold odds are the odds your hand will win if either you or your opponent(s) are all-in. Devices such as the online CardPlayer Calculator calculate the odds of how hands fare mathematically against each other.
Implied odds generally are “best guess estimates” of how future bets will impact the price of a given play. If you are currently receiving 3-1 odds on a call, you need to determine how future betting will affect your current price. Implied odds can affect your hand either positively or negatively, depending upon whether you have an edge in the future betting.
When assessing odds, you should calculate/estimate the “effective odds” of the whole equation. If there are multiple streets, you should calculate your odds based on getting to the river and the likelihood of all bets. That said, sometimes you can correctly call only one street, but you must adjust your odds for only that street’s card(s), and not miscalculate by comparing your current odds to the chances you will complete the hand to the river.
Additionally, don’t get confused by the fact that 1 in 3 is the same as 2-1. Different writers phrase odds/ratios using different terminology that is easy to confuse.
Whenever I play, I’m always aware of my current price and know how much money is in the pot. I make adjustments based on any assumptions of risk I may take, such as someone’s raising behind. I then think about my implied odds. Will my hand provide me future value? Or will I have to pay more on the turn? How is the hand likely to play out? A lot of that is “best guess estimates,” but over time and lots of practice, I’ve learned to be somewhat accurate. By calculating my odds in this manner, I acquire a good feel for what is mathematically correct and create better decisions for myself.
This is an oversimplified and short explanation. Learning how to calculate the odds is a necessary fundamental for developing a “feel” of what is mathematically correct. Doug Hull of Red Chip Poker wrote a book, “The Poker Workbook for Math Geeks” that is an illustrated, easy to follow and understand math guide strictly for poker. I recommend it to everyone who needs to improve their poker math. You can get it at http://www.ThreeBarrelBluff.com .
Happy Calculating