Poker Odds. Calculating Implied Odds

Sometimes, you want to play hands preflop that have pretty thin hot-and-cold value. You don’t win often with these particular hands; but when you do, you win big.

That’s the gist of implied poker odds; you’re getting them when your immediate value isn’t too hot, but your potential value on future streets are much better.

Say you’ve got a pair of threes preflop, and you’re in the big blind. Pocket threes isn’t a great hand, and to round out your misfortune you’re in a terrible position. But a player with a 150BB stack raises from middle position, all fold to you, and you rejoice — as it turns out, you’ve got pretty good implied odds in this spot.

The player in middle position likely has a decent hand at least, since he’s a tight-ish player and knows basic strategy. So you estimate that he probably holds at least a couple of broadways, or maybe a pocket pair himself. That’s great for you — your hand is totally disguised. The flops you hit will look totally unthreatening to your opponent. When you make a set, he’ll have no idea — and thanks to that, you’ll get paid off handsomely more often than not.

Those are implied odds at work. Let’s take a closer look at how they work, and how they’ll affect our strategy.

Calculating Implied Poker Odds

You know all about pot poker odds: the ratio of a bet you’ve got to call to the size of the pot you’re vying for. Calculating implied odds is basically the same process as calculating pot odds, but you want to add potential winnings on future streets to the amount of the pot.

Say for instance you’re in the small blind with 44 preflop. The game is $1/2 NL Holdem. The player under the gun raises to $8, and everyone folds to you. You’ve got to decide whether you should fold, call, or raise.

You’ve got a pretty marginal hand. A pair of 4’s will rarely hold up 3 streets, especially against a tight under the gun player’s raising range. So there’s really no point in 3-betting here. The decision becomes fold or call.

You’ve got to shell out $7 on a call (since you’re the small blind). So you’re looking at $7 to win $11. You’re thus getting 2:1 on a call. Those aren’t great odds, considering you’ll hit a set only about 10% of the time.

But wait! We haven’t considered how much you stand to win if a 4 hits on the flop.

Your opponent has a 150BB stack, or $300. Say you estimate that if your set hits, you’ll stand to win about 1/3 of his stack. So the pot you’re really playing for, here, is $11 + $100, or $111. Thus you’re getting about $7:$111 implied odds, or about 16:1 on a call.

Those are great poker odds compared to the immediate 2:1 you’re getting, and turn out to justify a call. You’re 9:1 against hitting a set, but your 16:1 implied odds justify the risk. So your implied odds turn what is essentially an unprofitable situation into a lucrative one.

Stacks: Bigger = Better

When it comes to implied poker odds, you’re not going to be whipping out a calculator and calculating them precisely at the table. But you can certainly estimate the implied odds you’re getting just by looking at your opponent’s stack.

It’s very simple: the more money villain has in front of him, the better your implied odds. A bigger stack means you’re playing for bigger stakes; your potential winnings are, relatively, larger than they would be if you were playing a short-stacker. So you can take more risks with marginal hands, looking to hit hidden monsters that can net you significant pots.

To return to the small pocket pairs issue, you can probably see that there are situations in which playing them wouldn’t be profitable. For example, if your opponent only had 30BB in front of him, or $60, you couldn’t possibly win enough to make up for the poor odds you’d get on a call. Same with a 40BB stack, or even a 50BB stack. Against some opponents — short-stackers — playing these marginal hands just can’t be worth it.

But once you’re up against an opponent with 100BBs in front of him, or 150BBs, or 200BBs — folds start to look like attractive calls. The bigger your opponent’s stack, the more you stand to win when you hit a long shot; and thus the more long shots you want to play!

Great poker rooms to practice your skills: Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars.

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