Basics of Poker: Implied Odds

One of the most useful things that beginning players learn in poker is how to calculate pot odds. By calculating pot odds, you get a statistical percentage on whether or not you should make a tough call. Pot odds also save you money by ruling out drawing hands that aren’t worth playing. If you are sketchy on pot odds, then you should take a look at this

Once you understand pot odds, it’s a good idea to start learning how to determine implied odds. Implied odds are used by more experienced players who have a better grasp on the game. With that in mind, here is a quick look at what implied odds are as well as how to calculate them. 

Implied Odds Definition

The best way to define implied odds is by looking at the difference between pot odds and implied odds. With pot odds, you are looking at how much money is currently in the pot and nothing else. So if $120 was in the pot and you had to call a $20 bet, you’re only looking at gaining $140 within the frame of pot odds. 

Implied odds, on the other hand, look at both the amount of money currently in the pot in addition to how much you can win by hitting your hand. For example, if you are on the turn and looking to hit your flush draw, there’s a good chance you will get more money from other players on the river.  

Why Use Implied Odds?

If pot odds give you a precise number on whether or not to make a call, why would you want to use anything else? The answer is that implied odds allow you to be more aggressive and make calls that pot odds won’t. 

For instance, you might only have a 14% chance of hitting your hand versus 16% of the pot you would have to contribute after making a call; in this case, pot odds would be telling you not to call. But if there are 4 players in the hand, the pot will probably grow bigger on later streets so you aren’t really contributing as great of a percentage to the pot.

Calculating Implied Odds

Now that we’ve established how implied odds allow you to play more hands and be more aggressive, let’s look at how you calculate implied odds. To set this up, assume that you hold a pair of 6’s pre-flop in a $1/$2 game of NL Hold’em; one player in early position raises the pot to $5 and fiver others call. There is now $28 in the pot including the big and small blind so you’ll be contributing about 18% of the pot. 

The big problem with playing a pair of 6’s into a five-handed pot is that your only realistic chance to win is by hitting a set. And the chances of hitting a set on the flop are about 11.8%. Obviously you’re not getting good pot odds by contributing 18% of the pot with only an 11.8% chance to win.

However, let’s say that you hypothetically hit a set, someone makes a $5 raise, and you re-raise another $5. If two of the five players call this re-raise, the pot would grow to $58 (including your bet). Going back to the $5 call, you would only be contributing 8.6% of the future pot so an 11.8% chance of winning looks a lot better now. Even if you take out your $10 future bet, you are still only contributing 10.4% of the pot with a $5 call.

Downside of Implied Odds

While implied odds sound great in theory, this concept can get a lot of beginning players into trouble because they are too optimistic with implied odds. To illustrate this point, let’s say you hold Ks-10d on a board of Js-As-3c-6s; you have 9 outs or a 19.1% chance to hit your nut flush, and it’s just you and another person left in the hand. 

The pot is $20 and the opponent makes a pot-sized raise meaning he may already have a smaller flush. Here you are contributing 33% of the pot to see the next card with only a 19.1% chance of hitting a flush; these are horrible pot odds. And this is where people get in trouble when they assume that if their hand hits, the opponent will automatically pay them off. 

But here’s the deal: if the opponent doesn’t have a flush, they aren’t going to pay you on a four-suited board. If they already have a flush on the turn, this isn’t going to be a profitable call in the long run with a nearly 14% disadvantage in the pot odds department. 

Another problem you run into with implied odds is that they’re only an estimation. You don’t know for sure if is someone is truly going to call your raises no matter how aggressive the player is. So you could go through all of these fancy calculations and hypothetical situations only to have an opponent(s) fold in the end.

One more thing you need to be careful of is recognizing situations where you could lose even if you do hit an out (reverse implied odds). Going for a straight draw on a two-suited board means you’re likely to lose to a flush even if you do hit a straight. With so many pitfalls to using implied odds, are they still worth considering?

The Difference between Winning and Losing

Even though implied odds can be tricky, they are still extremely important to players who want to graduate from ABC poker. Implied odds allow you to play for more pots and take more chances at winning money. Sure you can stick to pot odds and play it safe, but you’ll never become great by playing within the limitations of pot odds. 

In the end, your ability to effectively use implied odds while knowing when to abandon them is the difference between being a winning and losing player.

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