Pot Odds Poker Explained

PokerNews Staff

Texas Hold’em Pot Odds Explained. Understanding how to calculate Texas Hold’em pot odds is a skill that helps players know when to call, raise, or fold. Poker is a card game that requires patience, practice, and skill. One of the first and most important examples of 'poker math' that new no-limit hold'em players need to learn is how to calculate 'pot odds.' In fact, when people talk about the 'math of poker,' a. Pot odds are the ratio between the size of the pot and the size of the bet you are facing. They are used primarily in comparison to winning odds as the basis for optimal decision-making. Think of pot odds as the amount you stand to win for every dollar you are required to commit, and winning odds as your actual chance of winning the pot. Setting HUD to display pot odds Hi, New member question (had HM1 years ago, just trialing HM3 now playing poker again) which I can't find the answer to using the forum search feature / FAQ's / Google. Understanding pot odds, like explained in the Texas Hold Em Poker tips paragraphs, can help you win more hands of poker and take home more money. Poker, in its essence, is a game of probability. And the number one thing you need to remember when playing poker is this: you want to bet lots of money when you are probably going to win.

One of the first and most important examples of 'poker math' that new no-limit hold'em players need to learn is how to calculate 'pot odds.' In fact, when people talk about the 'math of poker,' a lot of the time they are mostly referring to pot odds and how an understanding of them can help you decide whether to bet, raise, call, or fold.

Put most simply, pot odds represents the ratio between what you stand to gain in a hand of poker and what you have to spend in order to get it — that is, the ratio between your reward and your risk when making any given decision during a poker hand.

Calculating Pot Odds

For example, if there is $80 in the pot and your opponent bets $20, that makes a total of $100 in the middle. That $100 is the reward you can get if you're willing to risk $20 to call the bet. Pot odds are expressed as a ratio (reward-to-risk). In this case you're having to risk $20 to win $100, so your pot odds are 100-to-20, or 5-to-1.

That's the scenario poker players most often describe when talking about pot odds — that is, when facing a bet and deciding whether or not to call or fold. You add the amount of the bet to what is already in the pot to calculate the reward, the bet you need to call represents the risk, and the pot odds 'being given' to call is that reward-to-risk ratio.

Of course, you can also talk about pot odds after a player raises. Say you decide not just to call that $20 bet described above, but to raise to $80. That would mean your opponent has to call $60 to have a chance at winning what is now $180 in the middle — 180-to-60 or 3-to-1 pot odds.

That might seem simple enough — a little bit of addition and an easy division problem, and you can calculate pot odds.

Pot Odds Poker Explained Payouts


But why bother? There are lots of reasons.

One big reason why you want to stay generally aware of what your pot odds are — which means keeping track of how big the pot is at all times and being able to compare the pot size to each bet — is that doing so helps you estimate whether or not the pot odds being offered to you are favorable or unfavorable given the situation.

Let's look at three common circumstances in no-limit hold'em in which pot odds can be helpful when making decisions.

Using Pot Odds When Playing a Drawing Hand

Say you are on a flush draw and have with the board showing . There is $120 in the pot, and your opponent has bet $60. You could call to see the river card, but are the pot odds favorable enough for you to make the call?

It's easy enough to see that the reward is $180 ($120 in the pot plus the $60 bet), and so with a $60 risk you are getting 180-to-60 or 3-to-1 pot odds. Is that good or bad?

You believe you probably have to make a flush in order to make a better hand than your opponent's, so that means you have nine outs — the nine remaining clubs — to make your hand. You can see six cards (the two in your hand plus the four on the board), leaving 46 unknown cards, so you can estimate your chance of seeing a club fall on the river to be 9 out of 46, or just over 4-to-1 against.

Compare your pot odds (3-to-1 to call) to the odds you'll make your flush (a little worse than 4-to-1 against). It's clear that calling isn't such a good choice — that the pot odds aren't favorable for calling — because over the long term calling is not a profitable play.

Let's say you were to make this call 100 times. About 20 times you'd make your flush on the river (actually a little less, but we'll round it up). You'd be risking $60 x 100 or $6,000. But your reward would only be $180 x 20 or $3,600. After making this call 100 times and winning only 20 hands, you'd have lost $2,400! (Note: we aren't considering what extra money might be won or lost after the river card, but just the profitability of this particular turn call.)

Pot odds are favorable when they are greater than the odds against making your hand. If the pot odds were 5-to-1 here, it would be a good call with it being just over 4-to-1 against making the flush. But 3-to-1 pot odds are unfavorable when drawing one card to make a flush.

Using Pot Odds to Decide Whether to Call a Preflop Raise

Pot odds can also be compared not just to a specific probability (like drawing to a flush), but also to a more general estimate of your chances in a hand.

Say for example you're playing $1/$2 no-limit hold'em and get dealt in the big blind. A player raises to $7 from the button and it folds to you.

First off... what are your pot odds here? There is $10 in the middle (the $1 small blind + the $2 big blind + the $7 raise), and you have to call $5 to stay in the hand. That's 2-to-1 pot odds.

Now, think about the prospect of playing out of position. It's a hand without a lot of potential that is almost certainly worse than whatever the player on the button who raised has. Unless you flop a couple of diamonds or perhaps trips or two pair, you're not likely to feel good about going very far with this hand. Are these 2-to-1 odds favorable?

No, they aren't. You could quantify this perhaps, noting how you with two suited cards you flop a flush draw about 11% of the time, you flop two pair about 2% of the time, and you flop trips about 1.3% of the time — that adds up to around 14% good flops, meaning it's worse than 6-to-1 against your seeing a good flop. That's just an estimate, really, but is obviously way worse than the 2-to-1 pot odds, so folding is in order.

What if a player raises to $7 from early position and five other players including the small blind call before the action reaches you in the big blind with your ? Now there's $44 in the middle and you have to pay $5 to see the flop. Those are almost 8-to-1 pot odds, which are in fact greater than the odds against your flopping something good — you might consider calling.

Using Pot Odds to Decide Whether to Call a Suspected Bluff

Pot odds can also be relevant when deciding whether or not to call what you think might be an opponent's bluff.

You've reached the river with your and the board shows . Your opponent raised before the flop and you called, and you called his bets on both the flop and turn. Now there's $100 in the middle and he's betting $50, giving you 3-to-1 pot odds to call.

You suspect strongly he could be bluffing, but you think it's possible he might have something like aces, kings, jacks, ace-queen, or king-queen and have you beat. While it's not feasible to calculate exactly the likelihood he's bluffing, you might be able to make a rough estimate — say, that he's probably bluffing at least a third of the time here.

That would make it 2-to-1 against your tens being best, making 3-to-1 pot odds favorable for you — a profitable call to make.


There are many other applications of pot odds in no-limit hold'em, but you can't take advantage of them until you start to become comfortable figuring out pot odds as a hand is playing out.

This is often easier to do when playing online poker, where the betting amounts and pot sizes are shown as numbers. But even when playing live, you can with practice become increasingly at ease keeping track of what's in the pot and calculating pot odds until it becomes second nature to you.

And once you do, you can then use pot odds to help direct your decision-making in a variety of contexts.

Also in this series...

Ready to take a seat at the table? Put these hold'em tips into practice at PokerStars.

Want to stay atop all the latest in the poker world? If so, make sure to get PokerNews updates on your social media outlets. Follow us on Twitter and find us on both Facebook and Google+!

  • Tags

    cash game strategytournament strategyno-limit hold’embeginner strategypot oddsmathpreflop strategypostflop strategyoutsdrawing handsbluffing
  • Related Room

    Full Tilt

Pot Odds >The Rule of 4 and 2 : Pot Odds Examples

For a lot of players (including myself), the best way to learn about something is through a bunch of examples. So, carrying on from the basics outlined in my first article on pot odds, here are a bunch of examples for you to get your teeth in to.

I will be incorporating a little of the concepts of implied odds and reverse implied odds for good measure. Don’t worry though; it’s all really straightforward and logical when you get down to it.

The examples.

The answers to the examples have been placed in a show/hide box at the bottom of each example. Try your best to work out whether you should call or fold and why before revealing the answer.

Furthermore, the stakes used in each example are not a refelection of the ability of the players at the table, so don't read too much in to that. These situations just take in to account very general pot odds/implied odds/reverse implied odds strategy. Strategy 'in a vacuum' if you will.

Example 1.

Hand: K T
Board: A 3 8
Pot: $2

Player A ($10): Bets $1.5
Hero ($10): ?

Final Pot: $3.5
To Call: $1.5

Click to reveal answer.

Action: Fold
Reason:Pot odds are not good enough. We ideally need pot odds of 4:1 or better to hit our flush but we’re only getting odds of 2.3:1. The excuse that implied odds will make up the difference isn’t going to wash either I’m afraid.

I thought I’d give you an easy one to start off with. Don’t worry though, they’ll get more interesting.

Example 2.

Hand: A 5
Board: J T 7
Pot: $20

Player A ($100): Bets $20
Player B ($100): Calls $20
Hero ($100): ?

Final Pot: $60
To Call: $20

Notes: We are last to act with the nut flush draw.

Click to reveal answer.

Action: Call
Reason:Great implied odds. Even though our pot odds are 3:1 when we ideally would need at least 4:1 to continue, the fact that we have the nut flush draw with two other full stacks in the pot makes this an easy call.

Both of these players could easily have decent made hands or chasing straights or weaker flush draws. If we hit our flush, we expect to be able to get a decent amount of money in on the turn or the river and win a tasty pot. We only need to get another $20 from the pot when we hit to make this a break even play, which should not be a problem at all against two players on this flop.

Example 3.

Hand: 9 8
Board: J T A
Pot: $10

Player A ($50): Bets $3
Hero ($50): ?

Final Pot: $13
To Call: $3

Notes: Player A raised from late position preflop. We called on the button and everyone else folded.

Click to reveal answer.

Pot Odds Poker Explained Odds

Action: Fold
Reason:Reverse implied odds. The odds are fairly close to carry on with a straight draw (4.3:1 when we need 5:1), but if you look at the flop texture there is nothing that makes me want to carry on with the hand.

We have no implied odds (a straight would be super obvious) and our reverse implied odds are horrific. Any hand that completes our straight could easily be dominated by a higher straight, so we should be thinking in terms of what we could possibly expect to lose when we hit rather than what we could expect to win.

So regardless of the fact that we don’t have the pot odds to call anyway, the fact that it could easily get worse for us makes this a comfortable fold. Don’t get sucked in by the $3 bet that looks like such an innocent and tempting amount of money to call. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Example 4.

Hand: J T
Board: A 2 9
Pot: $15

Player A ($100): Bets $8
Player B ($100): Calls $8
Player C ($100): Raises to $20
Hero ($100): ?

Final Pot: $51
To Call: $20

Notes: There are 4 players in the pot (one of those is you). A bets, B calls and C raises. It’s up to you to act and both players A and B will also have to act after you in response to C’s raise.

Click to reveal answer.

Action: Fold
Reason:The pot odds are bad and we’re not closing the action. The pot odds are 2.5:1 and we ideally would like 4:1 to continue. Reverse implied odds also make a call less promising as there are 4 players in the pot and we’re drawing to the 3rd best flush.

Another reason a little related to pot odds is the fact that there will be two players to act after us. If we call the $20, the last thing we want is for either player A or B re-raising once again, forcing us to fold due to terrible odds.

You could argue that if A and B just call then we will have ended up being priced in to make the call for our draw. However, that’s just not a risk I would be willing to take, especially with the K and Q high flush out there for us to worry about too.

Example 5.

Hand: A Q
Board: T 2 4
Pot: $20

Player A ($100): Bets $5 All-In.
Hero ($100): ?

Final Pot: $25
To Call: $5

Notes: Player A has moved in for $5 on the flop. Don’t worry about the fact that we probably should have just got it all in preflop, just take it as it is.

Click to reveal answer.

Action: Call
Reason:Even though we haven’t connected with the flop, the small all-in gives us good enough pot odds of 5:1 to call and hope for the best on the turn and river.

In this instance it’s far easier to work out our odds using percentages and the rule of 4 and 2. Seeing as our opponent is all in, we can multiply our outs by 4 (for once) to find the percentage chance of us winning because we’re not going to face another bet on the turn. Let’s say we have 6 outs — 3 Aces and 3 Queens.

  • 5:1 = 16.6% pot odds (try and learn this odds conversion off by heart)
  • 6 x 4 = 24% card odds.

So because we only have to call 16.6% of the pot with a 24% chance of winning, it makes sense to call and hope for the best. It may seem like a bit of a wild call, but mathematically it’s more profitable over the long run.

Pot Odds Poker Explained Against

A couple of quick pot odds pointers.


1) Learn the common odds off by heart. You will land yourself in so many flush and straight draw situations that there’s no need to try and work out the ratio each and every time. It’s nice to know the process, but 99% of the time you just need to recall the odds of hitting for the most common draws.

  • Flush draw: 4:1 (19%)
  • Straight draw: 5:1 (17%)

2) You can actually call a little more than pot odds alone will allow on the flop more often than not. Very generally speaking, if you’re on the flop with a draw there is a very good chance that more money will be going in to the pot on the turn and river, even when you hit some of the most obvious draws. Therefore, this extra money makes up for the lack of pot odds over the long run.

Just as long as you’re careful not to use this as an excuse to call with ridiculously bad odds, you should be fine calling for a flush draw when you are getting pot odds of 3.5:1 when your odds of hitting are 4:1. You can work out how much money you need to extract from your opponent when calling without the right pot odds using the formula in the implied odds article.

Pot odds examples evaluation.

Practice makes perfect. Keep practicing.

Go back to the awesome Texas Hold'em Strategy.