Every time we call a bet, we always want a positive expected value. In the long run, our call should win more chips than it loses.
The first way that we approach this problem is with pot-odds. By combining this concept with equity, we can see whether or not a call is immediately profitable. For example, a flush draw on the turn has a 1 in 4 chance to hit on the river, giving us 25% equity.
We then need 4-1 pot-odds to justify the call. So, if there’s 40 chips in the pot, then we can call up to ten chips. If the bet is any larger, then we don’t have the pot-odds to call.
This, however, doesn’t tell the story. This is where we can start thinking about implied odds.
What Are Implied Odds?
Pot-odds are a concrete representation of the current scenario. How many chips are in the pot? How many do I have to call? We can assign numbers to these values.
Implied odds, though, are much more speculative. There’s no way to know implied odds for certain, but they can certainly make a big difference when it comes to making good calls.
Implied odds are the amount of chips that we expect to win when we hit our hand and our opponents put even more chips in the pot. If we hit our flush on the river and our opponent is willing to shove their whole stack, then we have high implied odds on the turn.
Implied odds are more of an art than a science. However, if we can coax our opponent into donating more chips after we hit, then we have more incentive to call with a drawing hand.
Beware of Unrealistic Expectations
That said, we shouldn’t just play any old draw because of implied odds. As with lots of expectations, in poker and in life, people tend to be a bit too optimistic. It’s not that likely that our opponent ships us their stack on the river, especially if they’re a nit.
We want to temper our hopes against realistic expectations. Don’t get carried away thinking that implied odds can make up for any deficiency in pot-odds. They often don’t.
We recommend starting out by making implied odds calls that are almost justified by pot-odds. Don’t start by calling a pot-sized bet with a flush draw. Instead, try calling a half-pot bet with an open-ended straight draw.
Eventually, as you get used to thinking in terms of pot odds and you learn more about your opponents’ betting habits, you’ll be able to use them as another effective weapon in your poker arsenal.