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Poker Odds

Every winning poker player understands the odds of winning in most situations. Though it may sound difficult at first, after reading this article, you will know your odds in any given situation in no time. Remember that all poker games are games of percentages and probability. Many players play under the incorrect assumption that poker is a game of luck.

Poker must be viewed as one long lifetime game instead of many short sessions. The reason for this is over the course of thousands of hands , the best hand will win the correct amount of time. Poker, however, is full of short-term variance (often called luck), which can be extremely frustrating.  Despite losing when the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor, the goal of winning poker is still to put yourself in this type of situation as many times as possible because when you do, you will win most of the time.

"Seven to One"

When a bet is made, and you're offered "seven to one" (usually written "7:1"), this means that the other person will pay you 7 if you win, and you will pay him 1 if you lose. 7 what or 1 what? Could be dollars, could be euros, could be cookies. Could be anything! The point is that he will pay you seven times as much if you win as you have to pay him if you lose.So if someone offers you 7:1 on a race horse, and you take the deal and bet $20, he will pay you $140 if you win and you will pay him $20 if you lose. As a sidenote, if it's a bookmaker you're dealing with you will usually give him your $20 before the race, and he will then pay you $140 plus your $20 back after the race, i.e. $160. So if you think your horse is more likely to win than the odds you get, you should take the bet.

And if someone offers you 6:1 after the river card in hold 'em, and you think you have better odds than that to win the pot, you should call. Of course, it's difficult to know if your hand is the better than your opponent's, but you should at least have some idea of how likely it your hand is to be best, but it's still a matter of judgement. To avoid having to discuss judgement calls, let's look at a situation where you can be certain:You're on the turn in hold 'em, and you're holding Q 9 in last position.

The board is A K 7 4

The player before you bets. He's a tight player, and you know he's unlikely to bet without at least a pair of kings, and likely a pair of aces, here. Your only chance of winning this pot is if the last card is a third heart, giving you a flush. There are nine cards that you have not seen out of 46 in the deck (counting from the turn, not the flop) that will give you this flush, so you have about a 9/46 chance to hit on the river. Another way of putting this is that there are 9 cards that will make you win, and 46-9 = 37 cards that will make you lose. The odds are therefore 37 to 9, or just about 4:1. If there is more than four times as much in the pot as it costs you to call, you should continue, since you have a profitable situation!

Types of ODDS:

Pot Odds: You Don't Have to Win Often

Many players mistakenly believe, even some experienced players, that you're wrong to continue in situations where you're not favorite to win. This is usually good advice, but it's advice that doesn't take into account any of the circumstances other than the (current) strength of your hand and what you believe your opponent to hold. In the example above, with the flushdraw, you should definitely not fold if the pot is laying you better odds than 4:1. You're a huge dog (meaning that the odds are strongly to your disadvantage) but you will win the big pot often enough to make it worth continuing. When the pot offers you high odds, you don't need to win often, is the lesson here.

Implied Odds: Gimme All Your Money!

If you understand what is meant by pot odds, you should now be ready to absorb the idea of implied odds. It's easy, really - it's based on the idea that if you're drawing to a hand (let's stick with the flush example above) you are likely to, on average, win more than what's in the pot right now if you do make it. If you do hit your flush on the turn or the river, isn't it likely that you can trick your opponent into giving you a little more of his money? If he has a pair of aces and you have a flush, you should be able to get at least one or two more bets from him. If he has two pair or a set, you should be able to win lots!

That's the simple idea behind implied poker odds - you can sometimes make a call where the pot odds aren't really sufficient (a "loose" call) but you do it because you figure that in the rare cases where you hit your hand, you will win more than what's in the pot right now. If you think that your opponent has AQ, in the hand above, you will often win at least three more bets from him on the turn and river if you hit your flush on the turn: he bets the turn (1), you raise, he calls (2), he checks the river, you bet, and he calls (3). With an extra three bets waiting for you if you make it on the turn, this future profit will make somewhat loose calls on the flop often correct.

However, and this is very important, don't put too much stock in implied odds. You can't know for sure that your opponent will pay you off when you hit (how often will he actually flash his pocket aces at you?), so be careful.

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