In poker, pot odds are defined as "the ratio of the size of the pot equal to the size of the bet you must call." For example, if a pot is $40, and your opponent bets $5, then your pot odds lay at 5:40, or 1:8. Pot odds are useful when calculating the profitability of calling a bet in Texas Hold 'Em. When the odds of making a winning hand are superior to the pot odds, a call is profitable. When the odds of making a winning hand are less than the pot odds, the call is not profitable. Let's use an example that's easy to understand:
Let's say you roll a die with your friend for money. Every time you roll a six, you win $10. Every time you roll any other number, you lose $1. Clearly, this is a profitable wager because you are getting 1:10 odds ($1 to $10) on a 1:6 proposition (odds of rolling a six). This can be applied to basic poker strategy.
- First, identify what cards you need to win. Let's say you know your opponent accidentally revealed that he has A-K on a flop that reads A-K-4, giving him two pair. You are holding a four. Only the two remaining fours will give you the best hand.
- Next, identify the odds of winning the hand. The odds of your next card being a four are 2:44, or 1:22. This is calculated by the number of fours remaining in the deck (2) divided by the number of total remaining cards in the deck (44). Remember, these odds are only to see the next card; you'll have to recalculate after the turn card is dealt.
- Compare the odds of winning to the pot odds. In the example directly above, assume the pot is $100. Your opponent bets $10 into you, giving you 1:10 to your call. Because the odds of you hitting a four and making your winning hand are 1:22, it is clearly unprofitable to make the call.
- Pot odds can also be use to force your opponent into making unprofitable calls. In the above example, switch places with your opponent. Now you have A-K, and your opponent has a 4 and any other card, with the board reading A-K-4. Knowing that your opponent has a 1:22 shot to win the hand, you must make a bet that gives your opponent poor odds to call. With a $100 pot, making any bet greater than $4.50 would give your opponent poor odds to call.
Of course, this decision-making process is much more difficult because you won't have the luxury of knowing your opponent's exact hole cards. But combined with other poker skills which help you deduce your opponent's hand by their betting patterns, you'll often be able to figure out what odds you'll need to call or how large a bet to make.