Poker odds, Implied odds, and Pot Size

When you first start playing poker you might hear the phrases relating to poker odds;

“I was pot committed.”

“I had Implied odds to call.”

“The pot was too large for me to fold.”

What exactly do players mean when they say these and can you ever actually be committed to a pot because the size is so big you can not fold? Let’s have a look at some common poker strategy and see if we can find out.  Firstly, the basics…

Basic Poker Statistics and Odds

1. You will receive a premium hand JJ+ AKs+ only 2.1% of the time. Unfortunately, this means the other 97.9% of the time you
are not going to have a super strong hand. When you have one of these hands, you stand to win the pot more often because
your effective hand strength is often enough to win at showdown even unimproved.

2. If you have a flush draw (one card short of a flush) you are around 35% to hit by the turn or the river. You still miss 65% of the time by the showdown.

3. Straight draws are slightly worse with 31.5% of the time completing by the river.

4. The chances of hitting two pairs with two unpaired hole cards on the flop are around 2%.

5. You stand at 7.5/1 to catch a set with your pocket pair on the flop, or 11.7%.

6. When you get a pair all in vs. a larger pair you are only around 20% to win. The larger pair will win 80% of the time by the showdown.

Calling based on Poker Odds

With both Straight and Flush draws, you have to make sure that the price you call is a factor of bet size ÷ pot total after the call. So if a pot is £60 and the opponent bets £20, then we are calling £20 into a total pot of £100 –  or 20%. If we have a flush draw here and have nine cards to hit out of 47 (or 19.1%) by the next card, you might assume that we should fold, as we are paying 0.9% too much to see the next card.

In order to make this decision well, we have to factor in what’s termed Implied Odds. When you do hit your flush, you likely have the best hand at the table, so you can either bet to receive additional winnings or see if the opponent continues to bet. In this spot, a call is likely a good option. Providing you both have enough chips remaining that you can win a decent sized pot if you hit (your effective stack size is large enough). The smaller your effective stack sizes, the less implied odds you have to drawing.
Poker Odds Implied Odds and Pot Size

Pot Committed

A concept that regularly pops up is that of being pot committed; this means there is so much money already in the pot that the equity of your hand always realises profit vs. the bet size or jam. A good example of this in practice would be flopping an open-ended straight draw (kq on jt3). Thereby having 31% by the river vs. a short stacked opponent. Say the pot is £10, and we have stack sizes of £14 effective. We elect to continue bet as we preflop raised to £5 or half pot if the opponent jams for £14 total. We now have a situation where the pot is £29 to call £9 or, 9/38 we need only 23% equity to call, thus we are pot committed, we have 8% more equity than we require to call so we call even though we lose 69% of the time.

Pot Committed Preflop

Many players will say they are pot committed preflop or with one pair hands that really have no redraws to stronger hands vs. jams in large pots. This is more of a fallacy. Even if you are offered truly tremendous odds, if the opponent can never have a worse hand and we aren’t going to be able to outdraw this hand we can end up in situations where we actually have far too little equity to call.

For instance, we have 100 big blinds preflop and a player we do not know jams 100 big blinds. If we look down to see 99 we ought to fold without further information. Even if there is already 20 big blinds dead in the pot. It is unlikely that the player who jams this much has a hand worse than 99. As such we will probably end up with 30% equity vs. all the possible hands he can hold, this is termed equity vs range.

Calculating Odds and GTO

As you get more advanced at poker, you should attempt where appropriate to calculate the odds of your hands winning. This range analysis will ensure that regardless of which hand your opponent ends up holding, long term you profit. Other topics to look at around this area can be loosely termed GTO or Game Theory Optimal.

Reverse Implied Odds

Beyond implied odds is another consideration called reverse implied odds. Suppose you hit your draw for a flush. If the opponent has a larger flush you are likely to lose a lot of money. Reverse implied odds creates an impact such as we should not call all suited hands preflop.  (Please fold that 36s next time, you feel like getting fruity preflop). The reverse implied odds of hitting and still not having the best hand far outweighs the implied odds of hitting and being paid off.

When playing poker, it’s important only to play as many tables as you can reasonably cope with regarding decision-making processes. You have to be able to calculate the chance of you hitting or how much you can get paid if you do get hit. This all takes time to work out. Eventually, you will notice that some situations happen frequently, and you can start creating a game plan for these, to make decisions more quickly.

Because of reverse implied odds, don’t get in the habit of calling any two cards preflop because the other players at the table have limped, though we might get 4-1 or only need 20% to call, we have no idea if players behind will raise forcing us to fold, and we have no idea if we are dominated such as we have less than 20% equity. If you are still compelled to call preflop, right hands to do it with include; Suited connectors and small pocket pairs which will all have more than their fair share of equity and will be able to call even if raised.

Poker Odds Conclusion

In summary, in poker, you have to know when it’s correct to call a hand. Whether raising for fold equity might be the best option or if folding is a correct a combination of the above concepts. This will help you in your decision-making process, and hopefully increase your profitability too.

So next time, you hear that woeful phrase “I was committed!” think carefully if the opponent had the correct equity to call, and whether or not they considered reverse implied odds!

Greg has been playing poker for the last 7 years, you can currently find him on Cash Game tables from £20nl-£100nl under the username BarrattG1. He currently writes poker articles and does coaching of micro stakes Mtt and Cash players. He uses a generally sound mathematical approach to odds and poker and uses this in conjunction with meta-game to create spots to profit from.

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