I've been thinking about and discussing pot odds a lot lately, so I thought I'd try to put some of the thoughts down on digital paper. So to begin, lets settle something right now. The following is the OFFICIAL definition of determining pot odds. Anything else you think it is....is wrong. And after we settle this little point, we'll move on to the discussion.
Pot odds are this: How much is in the pot....and how much will it cost you to call. That's it. There are no other calculations you need to do for determining pot odds. I've had people try their best to give me this long drawn out calculation and expectation chart and everything else you can think of. But Pot Odds are simply how much is in the pot compared to how much it is to call. Period.
EXAMPLE 1: Blinds 100-200. Three callers, including the small blind, and you're the small blind. What are the pot odds right now? If you said 9:1, you are correct. You have 100 in, the big blind has 200 in, and there are three callers for another 600. That means there is 900 in the pot, and you only need to call 100, so 9:1.
EXAMPLE 2: Same blinds, and you are the big blind. Player under the gun makes it 600, and everyone folds to you. Pot odds are now 900-500, or 9:5. Or, in English, there is 900 now in the pot, and it would cost you 500 to call it. 9:5.
OK, that is pot odds. That is ALL there is to pot odds. If you have anything in your head right now about anything else, erase it. You're thinking about something else.
So how do we use this one calculation? The answer is simple: If the odds of your hand winning is greater than the pot odds, it is an automatic call....in most games. We can discuss another day about times in a tournament when you should fold even with amazingly great pot odds.
So we figure out the pot odds. Lets say Example 1. Should you call? The answer is simple. YES. You SHOULD call, without even looking at your cards. The reason is that any two cards in the deck have a better than 9:1 chance of beating a pair of Aces....the best starting hand. Don't believe me? Try using a Poker Calculator and run sample hands. 2-7 offsuit (the worst starting hand) beats pocket Aces 12.4% of the time. So, the odds of the 2-7 winning is about 8-1. You're getting 9-1 on your money, so the odds of you winning are better than the Pot Odds.
I hear people all the time saying that they would NEVER call with 2-7. I've just demonstrated that it is proper sometimes. Maybe not the best thing to do, but you would not be wrong for doing it in this instance. And the first time you do, and the flop comes 7-7-2, theres your next car payment.
How about Example 2? What would you need to hold in your hand with that? 7-8 suited wins about 23% of the time against Aces. That's certainly not good enough, since you'd have to win about 51% of the time to make the call mathmatically correct (9:5 on your money is about 1.8 to 1....or quick calculated to 2-1. Either way you need a monster winning hand to make this call, and in that case you'd raise). In other words, there are no two cards in the deck that you should call with in that situation.....if you think the guy has pocket Aces. You'd most certainly fold Pocket Kings, since they are only like 1:4 to beat Aces (17.09% to be exact).
Hmm....so if you always use pot odds to determine your call....why would you ever call a raise beyond 3:1 with a drawing hand? Good question my friends, and that is is called IMPLIED ODDS. And Implied Odds are what we will discuss next time here in the Poker Forum.
One other note: Notice all the rounding I'm doing? You don't have a calculator at the poker table, so you have to round, or you'll just take too long. 17% is 20%.....26.583% is 25%. Don't try to be exact. Just try to be as accurate as you can be in your head.