Implied Odds in Poker – How to Calculate & Use Implied Odds to Make Better Decisions
In poker, players lean on the principle of pot odds to help them decide if their hand is worth calling in situations where they have a draw.
An extension of this principle, which helps players make even more accurate decisions, is called implied odds.
Unlike pot odds, which are only calculated based on how much money will be in the pot at the end of that street, implied pot odds also calculate how much money needs to be in the pot at the end of a hand to make a call profitable.
Below we break down implied odds in poker, when you should use this principle, and how to calculate implied odds.
What Are Pot Odds in Poker
Before we dive into implied odds, it is very important that you have a good understanding of pot odds and how they are calculated, without this knowledge it will be very difficult to wrap your head around implied odds.
Pot odds are a mathematical expression of risk and reward, they represent the ratio between the total size of the pot and the bet a player is facing.
Poker players use pot odds to determine if it is worth continuing with their draw in a certain spot, or, in other words if they should call or fold their hand.
To calculate pot odds, you need to divide the amount of money you need to call by the total amount of money in the pot.
For example, if the pot is $100 and you are facing a $50 bet the calculation would be the following:
- $50 (the amount you need to call) / $200 (the current size of the pot + your opponents bet+ your call) = 0.25 or 25%
In this situation, your pot odds are 25%, which means that you need to hit your draw at least 25% of the time for this to be a break-even call.
Now, if your opponent is all in on the flop or the turn, pot odds will give you an accurate answer on whether you should call or not, but what about situations in which both you and your opponent will still have money behind if you make a call?
Well, this is when implied odds come into play.
What Are Implied Odds in Poker
Implied odds help players determine how much money they need to win on later streets if they hit one of their outs for their call to be profitable.
With the implied odds principle players can make an estimate if it is realistic to win that much money on later streets.
If a player expects to win more over the long run with a call, that means that the he has good implied odds. If he thinks that he won’t be able to extract enough money on future streets, he has bad implied odds.
It is important to remember that, although these calculations are based on math, they are still estimates, because there are also other factors that come into play, including the human element.
With that said, in many spots, the principle of implied odds is the best way to go, so let’s have a look at how to implement this approach correctly.
How to Calculate Implied Odds In Poker
Before we jump into explaining the formula for implied odds in poker, let’s just recap the conditions that need to be fulfilled for it to work:
- There is at least one more street that will be played
- Your opponent has bet but did not go all in
If these two conditions aren’t met, there is no point in calculating implied odds.
With this said, you should always focus first on calculating your pot odds, and use the result you get to determine if you need to calculate the implied odds in the following way:
- You are getting the correct pot odds – you should continue with the poker hand
- You are not getting the correct pot odds – you should proceed to calculate the implied odds and evaluate if it is worth continuing with the hand
The equation for calculating pot odds is the following:
Amount to call / (opponent’s bet + current pot size + amount to call + what you need to win) = your hand equity
For example, let’s say that you are playing $2/$4 No Limit Holdem, and your opponent bets $100 in a $200 pot on the turn. You are holding A♠7♠ and the board is 8♠5♠Q♦J♥.
You are pretty sure that a spade on the river will give you the best hand, so you calculate your pot odds to see if you are getting the correct odds to call.
- 100 / (200 + 100 + 100) = 0.25
In this situation, you need 25% or more equity to make a profitable call, but with one card to come, the chances of you hitting a spade on the river are around 20% which means that your call will not be profitable over the long run.
However, you should also calculate how much money you would need to win on the river for this call to at least be break even before you fold your hand.
If you think that there is a high chance that you can extract that amount of money from your opponent on the river, calling would be the way to go.
Thanks to the formula we mentioned above, this is pretty easy to calculate:
- $100 / ($100 + $200 + $100 + X) = 0.20
- $100 / ($400 + X) = 0.20
- 20 x $400 + 0.20 x X = $100
- 80$ + 0.20 x X = $100
- 20 x X = $100 – 80$
- 20 x X = $20
- X = $20 / 0.2
- X = $100
To check if your calculation is correct you can then input your result in the place of the X in the equation.
- $100 / ($100 + $200 + $100 + $100) = 0.20
- $100 / $500 = 0.20
- 2 = 0.2
In order for your call to be profitable on the turn, you need to extract $100 more on the river from your opponent when you hit your flush.
Factors to Consider When Evaluating Implied Odds
As you can see, the formula for calculating implied odds is pretty straightforward and with enough practice, you should master it pretty quickly.
The important thing is learning how to use the result you get to make the best possible decision.
Some of the things that you need to pay attention to are pretty easy to incorporate into your game because they are based on logic. Others are more situational and will depend on how well you know your opponents.
How Much Money Is Left in Your Opponent’s Stack?
When evaluating implied odds in a hand, the easiest and the most obvious thing to consider is how much money is left in your opponent’s stack after he made his bet.
If your opponent does not have enough money to cover the amount you need to win from him on later streets, you shouldn’t be chasing the draw.
In our example, our opponent must have at least $100 left in his stack for us to consider calling his turn bet.
You might be thinking that this is pretty logical, and it is. However, when you are in the game, there are a lot of things to think about, so be careful not to overlook this key detail.
How Well Is Your Hand Disguised?
Based on their experience and skill level, your opponent might be good at hand reading. This is why it is important to evaluate if your hand is well disguised.
Naturally, some hands will be better disguised than others based solely on the board.
For example, sets will always be better than flushes in this area.
But no matter what you have, it is always important to think about what your hand looks like in the eyes of your opponent.
If you have a flush draw and your know that your opponent puts you on a flush draw, there is no point in continuing, as you will never be able to extract additional money from him when you hit your flush.
Is Your Opponent Passive or Aggressive?
Another thing to consider is your opponent’s playing style. Is he aggressive or passive, does he have a fold button or is he a calling station?
The play style of your opponent is important when talking about implied odds because it will help you make a more accurate assessment of how things will go on the river if you hit one of your outs.
If your opponent is an aggro maniac there is a high likelihood that he will bet himself on the river without even considering if that helps you or not and make it easier for you to extract value.
Passive players that like to check-call are also ideal opponents in these scenarios as they are much more likely to call than good players who are aggressive and know how to put you on a range of hands.
Players that you want to avoid in these situations are good at the game and will in most cases put money in the pot only when they know where they are.
Continuing against these kinds of opponents and banking on your implied odds will lose you money in the long run.
Are You Playing With Deep or Shallow Stacks
When it comes to implied odds, the size of the effective stack is very important. Because of this, you will often hear players explaining their decision in certain situations with expressions like “we are a little deeper”, “we are deep,” as well as “both of us are short”, and “we have shorter stacks.”
This is because the value of the hand with implied odds goes up in relation to the size of the effective stack.
The deeper the stacks, the more you want to call with hands that have implied odds for the simple reason that you will have more value to extract on future streets.
The same goes the other way around, if you are playing in a cash game with a bunch of short stacks or in a later stage of a tournament where most players have between 15 and 30 big blinds.
You will want to avoid chasing draws for the sake of implied odds since there is less value to be gained on later streets if you do manage to hit your hand.
Final Thought on Implied Odds
The concept of implied odds is one of the fundamental poker concepts that every serious poker player should master.
By using the formula for the implied odds you will have a mathematical foundation that will along with your poker skill help you make decisions with a positive expected value.
It is also important to remember that even if this concept might be confusing at first, once you master it, it will become second nature.
Just like with other elements of poker strategy, the more you play and study, the more comfortable you will feel making decisions based on implied odds.