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Pot Odds


   The term "pot odds" refers to the ratio between the amount of money in the pot (reward) and the amount of money you it will cost you to try and win it (risk). We know that in order to be a good bet, the reward must outweigh the risk. Let's examine the decision making process.


   Situation - you are playing in a $3 - $6 holdem game. You have As 5s the board is 2s Qh 6d 10s there are two other players in the pot and there has been a bet and a call. Should you call? Poker mirrors life and as in life, proper information is required in order to make a proper decision. So far, we simply don't have it. So what's missing? The key piece of the puzzle is, how much money is in the pot? Let's say there's $24 in the pot. Your decision now is this, should I call $6 to try and win $36 (include the $6 bet and the call)? There it is! The first part of you equation is, 36 / 6 = 6. You are getting 6 to 1 pot odds (reward). The second part of the equation is your card odds. We know that we have nine outs so our card odds are 1 out of five or 4 to 1 against (risk). Thus the reward does in fact outweigh the risk and we should call. Four times we call and do not make the flush for a $24 loss. The fifth time we make it and win $36 for $12 profit. Smile.


   Now, let's say it's the same situation but there is a bet and a raise in front of you. Should you cold call $12? The card odds haven't changed. We know we need to be getting at least 4 to 1 to call. 12 x 4 = 48 Is there $48 in the pot? Let's add it up - $24 already in the pot plus a $12 raise and a $6 bet = $42. If we think the original bettor will call then we can include his last $6 (called implied odds) making $48. Then in the long term it would be irrelevant if we called or folded since our expectation is zero. However, that is not the whole story. The original bettor might reraise and it could get capped before it gets back to us. More importantly, with this much action, we must consider the possibility that one of our opponents has a set thus reducing our outs to 7 since the Qs and the 6s pair the board and we can no longer count them. To make matter worse, our other opponent might be on a flush draw also. Normally, drawing for a flush with someone who is drawing for a smaller one is an excellent overlay but in this case it means two less spades in the deck further reducing our outs to 5. Our card odds are now worse than 8 to 1 and the pot odds are only 4 to 1. Granted this is a worse case scenario for our hand but remember, the best case scenario for our hand is breaking even long term. A fold would be prudent.


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