Introduction to poker pot odds

Pot odds in poker are defined as the ratio between the current size of the pot, and the cost for you to call the hand in question.

As you will see below, poker pot odds alone do not give you any beneficial information. Poker pot odds should be compared to the probability of winning the hand by considering the remaining possible cards that can be dealt.

How to calculate your poker pot odds

It is best to learn how to calculate pot odds with an example. Assume that you are faced with the following situation:

  • You have the hole cards: A♦ 10♦
  • Poker cards Ad 10d

  • Before the flop: $3 dollars was put into the pot as the blinds ($1/$2), then an additional $3.5 each was put into the pot by you (in the dealer position) and one other player (to the left of the big blind). This means that a total of $10 is within the pot.
  • The flop was dealt as follows: K♦ 7♦ 2♣
  • Poker cards Kd 7d 3c

  • After the flop, the other player bets $5, this means there is now $15 in the pot and it’s your turn to play.

In this situation, the pot odds for you are $15:$5. There is $15 in the pot, and it will cost you $5 to call.

It is probably easier to remember your pot odds as a percentage, which can be found by dividing the amount in the pot after your call (i.e. $20), by the cost of you to call (i.e. $5). Therefore the poker pot odds are 0.25, or 25%.

As highlighted above in the introduction, this does not really tell us much on its own. However, comparing pot odds to the probability of winning the hand gives you some very valuable information.

Calculating your chance of winning the hand

You can calculate the expected value of winning your hand when you have a drawing hand. A drawing hand is one where you do not believe that you are winning the hand, but if certain card(s) are dealt, you will likely win the hand.

The situation in the above example is a drawing hand. This is because the flop dealt was K♦ 7♦ 2♣ and your hole cards are A♦ 10♦. This means that after the flop you currently do not have a very strong hand. You do not have any pairs, and only have a high card of an ace. The player you are up against may already have hit a pair or better. This would mean that he/she would currently be winning the hand. (Visit our poker hand rankings page if you are unsure about poker hand rankings.)

However, whilst they may currently have the best hand, you may have a reasonable chance of winning the hand after the remaining cards, the turn and the river, are dealt. For example, if an Ace is dealt on the river or the turn, you could still win the hand. Furthermore, there is a possibility you could also steal the hand if another diamond card is dealt, which would result in you having a ace high flush.

In a deck of cards, there are 52 different cards. Unfortunately, we do not know our opponent’s cards. However, utilising the cards we know for certain, we can predict our chances of winning. We have been dealt 2 hole cards (A♦ 10♦), and there are 3 cards dealt in the flop (K♦ 7♦ 2♣). That means there are 47 unknown cards remaining (i.e. 52 less 5).

We will assume that an ace or a flush will result in us winning the hand. As such, we need to count how many cards remaining will enable us to hit an ace or the flush:

  • Diamond cards: There are 13 diamond cards in total. We have already seen 4 of them, therefore 9 diamond cards remain that could be dealt.
  • Poker cards - diamonds

  • Ace cards: There are 4 ace cards in total. We have already seen one of them, which mean that 3 Ace cards remain.
  • Poker cards - Aces

This means that 12 cards (i.e. 9 diamonds plus three ace cards) will win us the hand. As there are 47 cards left this there is a 25.53% (12 divided by 47) chance of winning.

Therefore given that your probability of winning (25.53%) is higher than the poker pot odds (25%), mathematically the best decision would be to call the bet.

Are there any other things I should consider?

For the purposes of simplicity, we have kept the explanation of this page quite basic. There are a few other things you should also consider in more detail when reviewing pot odds and your probability of winning:

  • Your opponent’s cards– poker is a game that is believed to be around 40% skill and 60% luck. The skill that makes a big difference is the ability to predict the other player’s cards, and hence know when you are beaten. In the above example, we assumed that we would win the hand if we hit an Ace card. However, if our opponent had hole cards of an Ace King we would not have. This would have meant that our chances of winning were actually 19.15% (9 divided by 47), which would mean that we should fold the hand if we had to call a bet of $5 into a pot of $15.
  • Implied pot odds– to be more accurate, you should also consider betting that will happen in the future rounds of the hand. This is where implied pot odds come into play. With implied pot odds you calculate the pot odds based on the amount currently in the pot plus any additional bets that will likely be made into the pot in future rounds.
  • Reverse implied pot odds– due to the inability to accurately predict the cards held by your opponent, you may also want to consider situations where you will win the pot now if your opponent folds, but you will lose (and will lost a larger amount) if your opponent calls. Reverse implied pot odds calculations very useful information when you are trying to bully a player out of the hand. For example, if you make a bet now and your opponent folds you will win the pot. However, if you opponent calls they will likely have a stronger hand than you and will win the pot. In this situation, you need to compare reverse implied pot odds to the likelihood your opponent has a weak hand.

We hope this has helped developed your understanding of pot odds in poker. If you are looking to start to play poker, be sure to review our poker comparison pages to help you find the best online poker site for you.