Explanation of Reverse Implied Odds

Reverse implied odds are typically considered the opposite of implied odds in poker. Implied odds allow us to make calls without having direct pot odds due to the possibility of being able to win additional chips on the later streets. Having an understanding of implied odds helps to conceptualize the concept of reverse implied odds. See the glossary entries under pot odds and implied odds for more information on the topic.

On the flip side of the coin, reverse implied odds mean that it may not be mathematically incorrect to make a certain call even if we appear to get the direct pot odds. This is because it’s likely that we will lose additional chips on the later streets even if we make our hand. We hence need more than the required pot odds in order to compensate for the fact that we will lose additional chips on the later streets.

There are two primary types of hand that suffer from reverse implied odds.

1. Dominated draws. Any time we hold a draw that is not to the nuts, we run the risk of being dominated by an even bigger draw once we make our hand. This makes it likely that we will lose additional chips even after we hit, and we need to be getting a good enough direct price to compensate for this.

2. Vulnerable mid-strength made hands with little improvement potential. An example of this would be a mid-pair in Hold’em. Not only is this type of hand unlikely to improve by the river, but it also has a tendency to deteriorate in strength as more cards are dealt. Draws complete and overcards fall, making it even less likely that our pair will be able to stand up to heat on the later streets.

Example of Reverse Implied Odds used in a sentence -> Be careful with weak draws since they can carry a decent amount of reverse implied odds.

How to Use Reverse Implied Odds as Part of Your Poker Strategy 

The key strategic adjustment is to be able to recognize scenarios where reverse implied odds should be taken into consideration. In situations where the later-street outlook is grim we need better direct pot odds in order to compensate. This is best illustrated by two quick examples - 

Example 1: We are OOP on the turn in Hold’em. There is $100 in the middle and our opponent makes a bet of $25. If we made the call there would be $250 in the remaining effective stacks.

Board: T♠T♣5♠8♠
Hand: Q♦7♠

We are getting an extremely cheap price to make the call. We have a flush-draw which will hit on the river roughly 18% on the time and we’d technically only be investing 16.67% of the total pot. We have the pot odds, we should always call, right?

The problem occurs when we spike our flush on the river and our opponent follows up with a large bet. Do we call or fold in that spot? On one hand we based our turn calculation on the fact that our hand would be the best if we hit, while on the other hand it seems very likely that our opponent has a better flush or a full house. 

Since the potential for domination even after hitting is so high, our pot odds calculation on the turn is clearly misleading. Despite the appearance that we are getting the direct pot-odds, folding is absolutely incentivized due to our reverse implied odds. Another way of approaching this scenario might be to heavily discount the outs we count when attempting to use a standard pot odds calculation. Whatever our methodology the lesson is the same. We should be careful drawing to dominated made hands even if we appear to be getting an excellent price.

Example 2: We are OOP on the turn in Hold’em. There is $100 in the middle and our opponent makes a bet of $50. If we made the call there would be $250 in the remaining effective stacks.

Board: J♠9♠4♣2♣
Hand: 5♣5♥

According to direct pot odds we only actually need 25% equity to make the call here. It’s important to remember that direct pot odds calculations are only accurate when we are facing an all-in bet. Any time there are additional chips behind we need to factor in possible implied odds (or reverse implied odds).

Imagine we plugged our opponent’s turn betting range into an equity calculator and saw that we had 30% equity. We technically are getting better than the required pot odds to make the call, so we should call right? Again, we need to be very careful here. What is our plan on the river when facing another large bet? If our opponent always bets and we nearly always fold, is it relevant that we are getting the right pot odds specifically on the turn?  Assuming we decide to call some rivers, this is the type of hand that is more likely to lose additional chips on the river than make them: i.e. the hand suffers from reverse implied odds. We hence need a larger amount of equity than it might initially appear in order for us to have a profitable turn call.

This equity value can be estimated by approximating the average size and frequency of the bets that we will face on the river. For example, let’s imagine that 50% of the time our opponent will make a bet of $150 on the river. This can be considered equivalent to facing a $75 bet 100% of the time. By working this value into our initial pot odds calculation, we can produce an estimate regarding the equity required to make the turn call.

We can do this by including the extra $75 river bet as part of our opponent’s turn sizing. Instead of facing a $50 bet into a $100 pot on the turn we are instead facing a $125 bet into a $100 pot. If we made such a call we would be investing $125 into a total pot of $350. We’d need 35.7% equity to make such a call based on direct pot odds. Typically, this will provide a more accurate estimate regarding how much equity we need to make the turn call in the original setup. Although such methodology does not take into account every possible variable, it’s sufficient to teach us an important lesson regarding usage of pot odds. We can’t use a direct pot odds calculation when there is the possibility for our opponent to continue his aggression on the next street.

See Also

Pot Odds, Implied Odds, Equity, Outs, Sizing

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