Poker Lesson 35

Pot odds, part II: When should you calculate the pot odds?
In the previous lesson, I showed you the basics of what pot odds represent: the relation between what you may win at a given moment, and how much capital you risk in "accepting that bet".

To give you yet another example, taken from Texas hold'em, let us assume that there on the table currently are 25 (the small blind) + 50 (the big blind) + 50 (one caller) + 100 (one raiser) = 225 in total. Now it is your turn to act, and you may win those 225 if you in this situation decide to bet 100 (= your calling the previous raiser). Your pot odds at the moment are 225 divided by 100 = 2,25 to 1.

However, it is not with any two cards in hand, and in all situations, that you need to start calculating the pot odds .

If you are dealt absolute crap cards initially, like 7-2, 9-4 or J-3, and immediately face a raise from a player who has acted before you and at a full table, there is seldom much to think about in the way of pot odds: you fold those starting cards 99 times out of 100, and wait for a better hand on the next deal.

If you instead are sitting with a so-called monster, a hand that is practically guaranteed to win the pot, you have another decision to make. A typical example is when you have called pre-flop with 5-5 in hand, and the flop is 5-K-5. Thinking in terms of pot odds here is less useful; instead you must consider how to act in order to trick the other players into staying in the pot for as long as possible, and betting as much as possible, before you hit them with this sledgehammer of a poker hand and take the money on the table.

Instead, you should think in terms of pot odds

(1) when you have a promising hand but one which needs to be improved if it should be a favourite to win the pot,

(2) when you have what is probably the best hand at the moment, but need to decide whether your hand can stand competition from several opponents, or whether you should cut down severely on the field against you.

Two typical instances of the first case are if you start with a hand such as 7-7, a mediocre pair; or with K-Q of hearts in hand upon which the flop is Ace of spades – 3 of hearts – 10 of hearts. In both these cases you have something promising, but not yet a really strong hand. The pair of Sevens usually needs to improve to trips, preferrably right away on the flop, and the other hand needs to improve to a finished straight or flush, or at least two pairs, if you want to be a strong candidate to win the pot.

A typical instance of the second case is when you sit on the button with a pair of Aces in hand, and one player before you has called. Should you also call and risk taking a flop against possibly three opponents, if the small blind also calls, but also enjoying the advantage of being last to act... or raise now to face only one or possibly two opponents, with the risk of all the others folding instead?

More on pot odds in the next lesson!