Implied Odds – Bringing More Than Just Math to Your Poker

Winning at poker, regardless of the game you play, requires you to know and calculate odds on the fly. Most players are good at determining what the explicit odds or pot odds are at the table. However, many ignore the very valuable skill of also calculating the implied odds of each hand. Therefore, they miss out on knowing what winnings they can expect on the next several rounds of betting.

Only reading the pot odds of what is on the table is all well and good. However, you may have a better hand than you think if you also calculate the implied odds. This is based on determining how much you could win with the right cards as the betting continues throughout the game. This also allows you to relax the usual rules of pot odds betting and drop a little more for draws. You can do this because you are more likely to make up the extra cost once you make your hand.

Naturally, implied odds will also tell you when your long-term outcomes for future rounds are looking bleaker, and thus you can tell when to stick to the standard rules of pot odds. If you don’t stand to earn as much overall, it is less profitable to pay so much to try and make your draw. In this article, we’ll go through the basics of calculating implied odds, how to proceed based on your results, and strategies for using your implied odds to help you earn more money per game.

What are Implied Odds?

Essentially, implied odds are defined as the amount of money you can expect to win after you have completed your drawing hand. Let’s say you make a call on the flop with a flush draw and then make your hand on the turn, your implied odds are how much money you can win from your opponent on the turn and the river (with any luck this means a lot). Overall, your implied odds are comprised of any money added to the pot after you make your call.

Why are Implied Odds important?

Implied odds matter because when you calculate the pot odds, you only include the money on the table, not what you can expect to win in the next several betting rounds. Since implied odds are not a factor in determining pot odds, you may often have much better odds of a win than you think. If you think several rounds ahead, you can factor in what you could win in addition to the current pot. This means you can make more informed decisions about whether to call or fold on a draw.

Calculating Implied Odds

The short solution to this is that you don’t actually calculate implied odds, per se. It’s a literal impossibility, as you are evaluating general implications of presented facts as opposed to mathematical quantities. So just how do you determine implied odds? There are variables to consider, but in the end, it is equivalent to strategic educated guesswork. Here’s what to consider:

Your Opponent

The first question you need to answer: Can you win money from your opponent if you make your draw? The best way to estimate this variable is is to make the decision as to whether or not your opponent has a hand that’s worth investing money to see. Those with weak hands don’t tend to add much to the pot, and that significantly reduces the likelihood of your having good implied odds. Additionally, you need to assess how good of a hand reader the other player is. If you’re on a flush draw and call on both the flop and the turn, your hand’s value range becomes somewhat obvious to the other players. Smart hand readers are obviously going to pick up on this and put less money in the pot or fold.

Your Hand

As stated before, flush draws are somewhat transparent to the other players at the table. Up-and-down straight draws are too. Even if your opponent is not a particularly good hand reader, straight and flush draws your opponent reads will slow things down and bets are going to be tighter. Your implied odds improve greatly on hands like gut-shot straights, trips, or full houses. These hands are much more disguised and harder to detect, even for skilled card readers.

Stack Size

Most important when working out implied odds; you need to pay close attention to your opponents’ stack size. It makes no sense to try figure implied odds when up against a player with hardly anything left to bet. It won’t be worth meeting raises to see cards if the long term rewards are too low. Furthermore, don’t assume you can win their whole stack when it barely gives you favorable implied odds. An example of sufficient wiggle room for implied odds would be flopping a set with 15:1 odds. If their stack-value to raise ratio is lower than that, you want to hold off on trying to clean them out.

How to Use Implied Odds

The rules for using implied odds are simple: the more hidden your hand, the bigger your implied odds, and the more money you stand to make on the subsequent rounds of betting, if you hang in there. A hidden hand allays your opponents suspicions about the strength of your hand, and so they will pay you less heed and are looser with their betting. On the other hand, if it is clear that you could have a big hand depending on what’s on the table, implied odds are not good because other players know everyone in the game has a high potential for a strong hand.

Generally, the hands that are best hidden are straights and sets. This is due to the fact that they are harder to spot in the early rounds of betting, and so the potential for a big payoff is much higher. Conversely, flushes stand out like bright red flags because everyone at the table gets a lot more cautious.  Think about it, if you see three or more cards of the same suit laid out, where does your mind go? Therefore, your chances of making some gains on that hand are much slimmer. However, if your opponents don’t give you credit for having a strong hand and bet big anyway, you could potentially still pull off a big win, but the implied odds are not in your favor. Thus it is more of a hand reading call or judgment call than anything else.

Example Scenarios

Here’s a couple of scenarios that give you a better idea of how to integrate implied odds. It can become a pivotal part of your overall strategy for Texas Hold ‘Em.

Scenario 1: The blinds are $2/$4 and you open-raise pre-flop to $15 with a pair of fives. Your tight opponent re-raises, upping the pot to $100. You call with the extra $85 because the other guy has $1,400 left. Therefore you think the implied odds are 1400:85. But are they really? If your opponent is holding A-K or a pair of 10s, and they miss the flop, they are going to fold, meaning you are spending $85 for a $121 win, not $1,400. This makes the $85 call a bad move. The odds of you flopping a set are 7:1 and you are really only getting 1.4:1 for your money. Calling is only a good idea in this scenario if you know your opponent will go all in post-flop.

Scenario 2: You are in a $1/$2 no-limit Hold’em cash game, on the button with 6♥7♥. A player under high pressure limps and we raise to $8. The other player re-raises to $16, and you call. The flop is Q♠8♣2♥, and the opponent bets again. You fold. Why? Because the flop doesn’t improve your hand. You don’t need implied odds to tell you that it’s not worth going forward with another bet. If the flop had been Q♥8♠5♥, then a re-raise is better, as you have both straight and flush draws. Obviously, though, that didn’t happen. Implied odds are all well and good, but don’t forget to apply a little common sense first.

Implied Odds Conclusion

So we’ve covered how to read implied odds and what to look for when evaluating your implied odds. Alongside that, we’ve given a few examples of how to direct your play when you have established whether you have implied odds or not on any given hand. Clearly, while implied odds are great for determining how much money you stand to make on a hand, the smart move is to follow pot odds first and then look for potential implied odds in your favor to see you through the later rounds of betting.

Understanding pot odds is a great leaping-off point for your overall poker strategy.  Learning how to work with implied odds is the logical next step.  Reading your opponents and making smart calls with the long-term in mind will serve you and your bankroll well.  We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about implied odds, and we look forward to reading your comments below!

I am a poker enthusiast who also enjoys sailing, rugby, and gaming. A relative newcomer to the world of online poker, I will be putting our strategy guides to the test as I start the Bankroll Challenge: how far can I get without depositing a single penny? Keep an eye out for updates.

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