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Poker Pot Odds and Expected Value

Updated on November 3, 2010

This is my first poker hubpage, in what will become a small series for the poker beginner or intermediate player. I consider myself an experienced poker player, but far from a professional. I've been playing for a good few years now, starting with low stake games at home with friends (which we still run monthly), then I branched onto playing online and later the local casino. Fortunately, I generally win a lot more then I lose, but as with everything in life, up have your ups and downs.

One of the most important early concepts you need to understand if you're going to win at poker, is Pot Odds, and how from this you can assess from this the hand's Expected Value.

Your Pot Odds is simply a ratio of the current pot to the cost of calling to stay in the hand. That is, if there is a pot of $100, and you need to call someone else bet of $10 to stay in the hand, then we say the pot odds are 10-to-1 (which may also be expressed as 10:1 or 10%).

The Expected Value uses your pot odds to determine whether the probably of winning the hand has a good value, that is, it ways up the risks of losing versus the profits of winning to determine whether you should proceed with the bet.

Remember, your not going to win every hand even if the decicions that you make are technically correct and the probability is in your favour. But if you have a good poker system and continue to make clever decisions, you'll come out ahead over the hundreds or thousands of hands that you'll play.


Lets illustrate this with an example. Let's play an open hand against one opponent. I'm holding an eight and nine, and he's holding an ace and king. There's a king, a seven, six and a two on the table. We're just waiting on the final card (the river). There's $100 in the pot and I have to call a $10 bet to stay in the hand. So my pot odds are 100:10, or 10%.

If I'm going to beat him, I need the next card to be a ten or a five, as both of these will give me a straight. In a deck of cards there are 4 of each type of card, so I need any one of these 4 tens or 4 fives to show, which will give me a straight and I'll win the hand.

A deck has 52 cards, but I know the value of the 4 on the table and the 2 in my hand (we'll pretend for a moment we don't know my opponent's two), so that leaves 46 unknown cards. I need any 8 of these to win: 8 / 46 = 17%. So I have a 17% chance to win.

So if I have to bet $10 with to win $100, I'm only betting 10% of the pot. And if I have a 17% chance of winning, this is a good bet as the pot odds are in my favour.

If however, lets say I needed to bet $100 to stay in the pot and win only $100, then betting 100% of the pot with only a 17% chance of winning is not a good bet. It's time to fold your cards and congratulate your opponent on making a good bet.


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