Pot Odds

[BB] “Do you know what pot odds are?”, Benny the Book asked his son.

[JJ] Joey the Juvenile jested, “Would that be the chance that the police discover that the pointy little plants in your garden are marijuana?”

[BB] With a scornful look, Benny chided his son, “In poker, the pot odds are the current odds that you are getting to make a call. If you don’t know what odds you’re facing, you can’t make an informed decision. If you aren’t making informed decisions, you’re making mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, you’re…”

[JJ] “Okay, okay. I get it”, Joey interrupted.

[BB] “If you’re ahead in a hand, it’s good to know what your opponent’s odds are of catching you, so you charge him enough for his draw. But let’s focus on the flip side.”

[BB] “If you’re behind, it’s even more important to know what your odds are. If you’re chasing draws with bad odds all day, you’re just asking to lose. We just covered what your odds are of hitting your draws. Next you need to look at what odds the pot is giving you. If there’s 1,000 in the pot, and you need 250 to call, then you’re getting 1,000-to-250, or 4-to-1 odds. So if you can hit your draw once for every four times you miss, which is 20%, then you’ll break even on pure pot odds.”

[JJ] “Why is 4-to-1 20% instead of 25%?”

[BB] “Oh, I should have explained that last time. 4-to-1 means 4-misses-to-1-hit, which is the same as 1-in-5 (1 hit in 5 attempts), which is 20%. Even I get 4-to-1 versus 1-in-5 confused occasionally, so I prefer to work in percentages all the time.”

[BB] “To summarize, your pot odds are the amount that’s in the pot to the amount you need to call. Reversed, it’s the amount that you need to call in the pot size, so the percentage is the amount you need to call divided by new total pot (times 100% unless you want to keep it as a decimal). Let’s stick with this last equation from here on out.”

[BB] “If the pot is 250 and your opponent bets 500 on the turn, what are your pot odds for calling?”

[JJ] “That’d be 500 divided by (250 + 500 + 500) equals 40%. You’d need like 19 outs to make that a good call.”

[BB] “Exactly. Overbetting the pot makes almost all draws unprofitable for one street.”

[BB] “If the pot is 2,000 and your opponent moves all-in on the flop for 1,500, how many outs do you need to make it a good call if he never bluffs?”

[JJ] “1,500 divided by 5,000 is 30%. You’d need about 14 outs… no, that’s one street… you’d need 7 or 8 outs.”

[BB] “Excellent! I think you’ve already got it.”

[JJ] “Thanks. And you know those pointy green things in my bedroom? They’re buckeye leaves ;-).”1


  1. To be honest, they do look a little alike.

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