Poker has been changing over the course of the past 10 years. The game has become more analytically based around a finely formed set of statistics that are far and away more comprehensive than any player’s gut feeling. The most used calculation right now in the game, both online and in live action, is finding a hand’s pot odds, which helps let a player know the value of making a particular call in Texas Hold’em given a set amount of information given in a hand.

The Formula for Calculating Pot Odds

Unlike complicated statistics that are used online like VPIP and other complex aggression-based percentages, calculating pot odds is fairly straight forward. The calculation for pot odds is:
(# of outs x 2 + 1 = % of hitting an out) x (Pot + Bet) = Pot Odds (maximum bet that should be made)

It does look a little complicated, but after mastering this formula any player will have a slight advantage in making the best informed bet at the table. The key to the formula is understanding how many possible cards are left in the deck that can help make your hand and the maximum bet that you should be making or calling. This determination is wonderful for drawing hands like a straight or flush draw, but also improving existing good hands like a full house.

The benefit of this formula is that it is an excellent tool of moderation when you are playing against players who you’ve never sat across from, whether it be at a newly formed table of players or at a massive poker tournament where players are shifted every so often. Poker is often a game of reads, but with the advent of online poker that ability is thrown out the window in tournaments of thousands and cash tables of faceless opponents. Pot odds is also a wonderful tool in live games where you cannot gather statistics on your opponent with a click of the mouse.

Example of Calculating Pot Odds

It is important to practice calculating pot odds and actually using it in a game. Without practice the skill to make that quick calculation can hinder your effectiveness in making the right call and think critically. Here’s a sample situation and how to figure out your pot odds.

Situation: $5/$10 table

Say you are dealt kings and jacks and the flop is dealt 10 of hearts, queen of diamonds and 7 of clubs. Before the flop was dealt betting had produced a pot of $50. You are currently chasing an open-ended straight draw where an ace or a 9 can complete your straight. There are no flush draws on the board either. There are still four aces and four 9s out there possibly in the deck. This means you have eight outs in all. Take the eight outs, multiply by two which makes 16 and add one, finishing the first calculation to 17. This means that you have a 17 percent chance of making your hand. This is the first part of the formula.

Next, determine the total pot plus the cost of your proposed bet. In this case your desired bet would be $10 and the total pot is at $50, therefore the total pot is $60. Now multiply the percentage of hitting one of your outs (17 percent) by the $60 total pot, which is 10.2, under the $10 bet you wish to place making the bet or call profitable. If you had to bet $20 to make the call this would not stand up (bet+pot=$70) as the pot odds would be 11.9, well below the required bet. This would result in a fold being the correct, by-the-book move.

Pot odds naturally change by situation, but understanding this basic formula can help a player make a profitable decision and plug routine leaks in your game that often plague new and aggressive players. This key to poker isn’t just outplaying your opponent but refining one’s own game. It’s a lot easier to control your play than the cards being dealt to you at the table and understanding pot odds is just one tool to master.