Calculating Pot Odds in Texas Holdem

Poker, as with any form of gambling, has an element of luck involved. As winning poker players it is our goal to minimize luck as much as possible, striving to bet aggressively when we are ahead and fold our cards when we are behind. One of the primary skills needed to know when to fold speculative draw hands is the ability to calculate pot odds.

First, calculate the odds the pot is "laying" you. Say you are playing a pot against WSOP Champ, Mark Seif at AbsolutePoker.com and there is $100 in the pot already and you have to call a $10 bet to see the next card, then you are getting 10:1 pot odds. You are risking a $10 call for a chance to win the $100 already in the pot. If there is $100 in the pot and it costs you $20 to see the next card, then you are getting 10:2 or 5:1 pot odds to simplify.

Second, calculate the chance of actually hitting your hand. This is done by comparing total unseen cards to your outs. If you were four to the nut flush on the turn in Texas Hold'em, then you "know" 6 cards at that point (your 2 pocket cards + 4 on the board). That means there are 46 unknown cards. Of those 46, nine are in your suit and will give the flush, while thirty-seven will not help you. Your chances against making your flush then is 37:9. Simplified, you are looking at 4:1 odds against hitting your flush.

Finally, compare the pot odds to your actual odds of hitting the hand. If the odds in the pot are greater, then you can comfortably call, knowing that you will make money in the long run off this play. Example, there is $10 in the pot and it costs you $1 to call for the flush draw we mentioned. We know that you are 4:1 against actually hitting your hand, so you will lose 4 times costing you $4, and win once, winning $10, for a $6 profit. On the other hand, say there were only $2 in the pot, and it cost you $1 to call. The flush chance is still the same. You will lose 4 times, costing you $4, and win once, winning the $2 in the pot, for a -$2 loss!!

If you view poker as a life long game, and not a gamble, you will always consider the pot odds, when deciding to call with a draw. You will make these calls many times over in the course of your poker career, and if you consistently call when the pot odds are correct, you will show profit, even against the pros. If you consistently call when the pot odds are not correct, then even though you will win a hand or two, you will show a long term loss on the play, regardless of how bad the other players are.

Calculating Pot Odds on the Fly

Obviously we probably will not be bringing a calculator to our poker game and even with the time allotted in online games, it can be difficult to crunch the numbers before being folded! To rectify this situation, let me make three suggestions.

First, memorize the basic odds for 9 outs down to 1 out. This is simple enough. You do not have to memorize it to the 3rd decimal position. The pot will generally have either enough or too little money in it, so that if you know a rough figure, the decision to call or fold will be pretty easy. If it is borderline and you're not sure, fold. Wait on better pot odds. Calling with borderline odds will earn borderline profits.

Second, until you have committed the pot odds to memory, use a shortcut method. One that I have used in the past is to use the following formula: (Total Outs x 2) + 2. This gives you a rough percentage chance of hitting your hand. To use the inside straight draw as an example, you have 4 outs. (4 x 2) + 2 = 10. You have roughly a 10% chance of hitting your hand, or 10:1 in ratio form. While not exact, it is very close the actual 10.5:1 when you do the calculations more exactly. Again, this is a rough formula to be used only while you're in the process of memorizing the odds, or if your mind goes blank at a live casino.

My final suggestion is to use a good pot odds cheat sheet. I've provided a table below, so feel free to print it out and tape it to your keyboard. No one can see you checking your cheat sheet when you play online, and after awhile you will find that you've memorized the basic odds by using the cheat sheet for an extended period of time.

Outs 2 Cards to come 1 Card to come
21 .4:1 1.2:1
20 .5:1 1.3:1
15 .9:1 2.1:1
14 1:1 2.3:1
13 1.1:1 2.5:1
12 1.2:1 2.8:1
11 1.4:1 3.2:1
10 1.6:1 3.6:1
9 1.9:1 4.1:1
8 2.2:1 4.8:1
7 2.6:1 5.6:1
6 3.1:1 6.7:1
5 3.9:1 8.2:1
4 5.1:1 10.5:1
3 7:1 14.3:1
2 11:1 22:1
1 22.5:1 45:1

You may find some of these Poker Calculators to be very beneficial when trying to learn how to calculate pot odds on the fly.