Now that you know how to calculate hand odds, you're probably wondering what use it all is in a game situation? Basically hand odds are a figure that should be compared to what are known as pot odds. Pot Odds is the ratio of what is already in the pot to the amount you would have to bet to stay in the hand. So, if there is £36 in the pot, and you would need to bet £6 to stay in the hand, the pot odds are 36 to 6, or 6 to 1.
Why would you need to know this?
One example of using pot odds is when your hand is not yet the best hand at the table, but it could be if the right card comes up next. For instance, with four cards on the board you hold four clubs. The odds of completing the flush on the river are roughly 5 to 1 against you. That means for you to bet there should be at least five times the bet amount in the pot. If the bet to you is £2, then there should be at least £10 in the pot to make it worth calling.
Suppose there were £24 in the pot when you were making that decision. The odds of landing that club and getting the best hand at the table were 5 to 1. The pot would pay you 12 to 1 on your bet. That makes calling the bet the right decision to make. You may not land your club and win the hand, but over the long run playing this way will be to your advantage.
Another instance of using pot odds is after the river, when the final bet comes to you. If the pot holds £40, and the bet in front of you is £4, you can use pot odds to decide what to do. The pot is laying you Ten to One odds. (£40 against your £4 bet). Even though you feel your opponent may have the better hand, do you think he is ten times more likely to have a better hand? If so, fold. If not, call the bet and see his cards.
The usefulness of hand odds and pot odds becomes very apparent when you start comparing the two. As we know now, in a flush draw, your hand odds for making your flush are 1.9 to 1. Let's say you're in a hand with a nut flush draw and it's $5 to you on the flop to call. Do you call? Your answer should be: What are my pot odds? If there is $15 in the pot plus a $5 bet from an opponent, then you are getting 20:5 or 4:1 pot odds. This means that in order to break even, you must win 1 out of every 5 times. However, with your flush draw, your odds of winning are 2 to 1. Clearly you're not only are you breaking even, but you're going to be making a profit. The main point about this whole poker odds section is that you want your pot odds to be greater than your hand odds:
Pot Odds > Hand Odds = Profit
Even though you may be faced with a gut shot straight draw at times, which is a terrible draw at 5 to 1 hand odds, it can be worth it to call if you are getting pot odds greater than 5 to 1. Othertimes, if you have an excellent draw such as the flush draw, but someone has just raised a large amount so your pot odds are 1:1 for instance, then you obviously should not continue trying to draw to a flush, as you will lose money in the long run.
In this situation, a fold or semi-bluff is your only solution, unless you know there will be callers behind you that improve your pot odds to better than break even. Your ability to memorize or calculate your hand odds and figure out your pot odds will lead you to make many of the right decisions in the future.
Putting Poker Odds Theory into Practice
Your ability to calculate your hand odds and your pot odds is certain to improve your game and will lead you to make many of the right decisions in the future, but one important thing to note is that pot odds should be calculated one card at a time, not form the flop to the river. This is because the pot odds will change as betting takes place on the turn to the river. It is rare that if you a chasing a flush that an opponent will let you see the turn and the river for only one call, there will usually be betting at both stages. Therefore your odds of hitting your flush on the turn is 4 to 1, and also 4 to 1 on the river as well.
Hopefully this section has not been too confusing, it bits were difficult to grasp, give it time and read over them again. Don't dismiss the importance of poker odds just because they are at first difficult to understand, poker odds are a fundamental tool on the road to becoming a good solid poker player. Overall, poker odds should act as mathematical guide to take certain courses of action during a poker game. They should be combined with other poker skills you have learnt, but they should never be forgotten entirely. Good luck and happy winning!