Calculating pot odds is one of the most utilized poker strategies. The ability to calculate pot odds is something every good poker player should know. Unfortunately, many players assume it’s just too difficult to calculate pot odds while at the table, so they don’t really bother learning the technique.

The truth is, calculating pot odds isn’t nearly as tricky as presumed. In fact, by using a little estimation, players can very quickly calculate pot odds with near enough precision to take advantage of this important poker strategy, right at a live poker table. For online poker players, there’s also the option of using a calculator for more precise pot odds, but this isn’t really necessary.

In the simplest of terms, calculating pot odds involves two key elements – how many cards are left unseen (in the deck, and other players’ cards), and how many outs do you have. Throw in some basic division and you got your pot odds.

The cards that remain unseen are easy enough to memorize. After the Flop, for instance, you can see 5 cards – the two in your hand and three on the table. A 52-card deck minus 5 cards is 47. Let’s take a look at the unseen card numbers by Texas Hold’em game progression.

Pre-Flop = 50
Flop = 47
Turn = 46
River = 45

Of course, the river doesn’t matter since you won’t be getting any more cards, therefore have no outs remaining. Pot odds are less effective Pre-Flop as well, since you don’t really have enough cards to develop a workable hand. So the Flop and Turn are the most important to remember.

Next, we need to know how many outs you have. If you are not familiar with counting outs, please see our other poker strategy article – “Understanding the Number of Outs”.

So let’s say you have a 4-card Flush Draw on the flop. That’s 9 outs and 47 cards unseen. The formula is:

Unseen Cards / Outs = Pot Odds
47 / 9 = 5.22

So, we know there is a 1 in 5.22 chance of getting the card you need.

When calculating pot odds yourself, it is easiest to estimate. Dividing 47 by 9 in your head is more difficult, since the answer is not a whole number. However, basic math – remember those multiplication table we learned in grade school? – tells us that 9 will go into 45 evenly. 9/45=5, so we know there’s about a 1 in 5 chance of hitting our out.

Using Pot Odds – Rule of Thumb
In order to use the pot odds we’ve just calculated, we need to associate the pot odds with the pot size. We know there is a 1 in 5 chance of hitting an out. This means we do not want to wager more than 1/5th of the total pot size.

The formula is:

Pot / Pot Odds = Max Bet
$100 / 5 = $20

This is referred to as value batting. When you place a bet that is equal to your pot odds, you are making a calculated bet that is worth the risk. This is the biggest rule of thumb in calculating pot odds; making value bets based on those odds.

If the pot is not such an even number as $100, remember to use estimations. Let’s say the pot is $32. We round that to the nearest 5, which is 30.

$30 / 5 = $6

So we know that a bet of about $6 would be considered a value bet, worth making in this situation.

With a little practice, and maybe a calculator to start, (playing online poker of course, don’t bring a calculator to a live poker table!)  you can be calculating pot odds yourself within a few weeks at worst, more likely in just a few days.

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