Do you sometimes struggle with odds calculations in poker

In this guide, we’ll assume that readers already know how to perform basic odds calculations but are looking for ways to speed up and simplify the process. 

The faster we can figure out our odds, the more time we can spend on what matters - making the best decision. Sometimes players are so overwhelmed with the maths that they forget to think strategically about the situation they find themselves in. 

Poker Odds – Quick Recap 

The term “odds” in poker can apply to two slightly different areas.

  1. The price we are getting on a call or bluff.
  2. Our chances of winning or improving to the best hand. 

We’ll be referencing both in this article as well as additional types of odds calculation such as implied odds calculations.

We will assume a fundamental knowledge of how such calculations work. If at any point you feel the need to recap, check out this article entitled poker hand odds.

 7 Tricks for ESY Odd Calculations:

Trick 1 – Percentages vs Ratios

Traditionally, pot odds are expressed as a ratio. However, our ultimate goal is to compare pot odds to pot equity, which is expressed as a percentage. We hence have to invest extra time converting our pot odds ratio to a percentage format so we can compare it to our pot equity. 

This reason is why most professional players prefer to calculate their pot odds directly as a percentage. No conversion is then required to compare our pot odds to our equity. If our pot odds percentage is lower than our pot equity percentage, we have a directly profitable call due to pot odds. 

It can help to remember the following ->

Percentage of the total pot we are investing (including our call) = Our pot odds percentage.

So, if our opponent bets $50 into a $100 pot, our call of $50 means we would be investing $50/$200 or 25% of the pot. That’s our pot odds, 25%, super simple.

cauldron with $100 printed on the side and two spoons on each side ladling $50 each into the cauldron

Trick 2 – Memorisation

The simplest way to improve our calculation speed is actually to avoid all unnecessary calculation. Most professional players will tell us that there is no point calculating a value repeatedly if it can be easily memorised

For example, the following table shows us our pot odds (as a percentage) when facing standard bet sizings.

Facing Bet Size (%) Pot Odds (%)
20 14.29
25 16.67
33 19.88
40 22.22
50 25.00
60 27.27
66 28.45
70 29.17
75 30.00
80 30.77
100 33.33
150 37.50
200 40.00

For instance, if our opponent bets $50 into a $100 pot, a professional player will typically be able to tell us that we are getting 25% pot odds without performing any calculation. They have simply memorised that a half pot bet from our opponent offers us 25% pot odds. 

Similar memorisation techniques can be used for -

  1. Our chances of catching on the next street or by the river with different types of hands.
  2. The required folding frequency for a bluff of particular sizing to be profitable. 

That’s already a considerable amount of the maths cut right out of the equation!

Trick 3 – Good Arithmetic

Many people assume that someone is good at mental arithmetic or they are not. It doesn’t occur to them that good mental arithmetic is something that can be trained through various techniques. 

For example, imagine our opponent makes a $47.38 into a $100 pot. What pot odds are we being offered? 

Total pot size would be $47.38 + $47.38 + $100 = uhhhhhhh…….(time ticks slowly away). 

For reference the answer is $47.38 / $194.76 = 0.2433 or 24.33% pot odds. 

It might feel good if we can work with complex numbers in our head, but it’s absolutely a waste of time, in this instance. Being good at mental arithmetic doesn’t necessarily refer to someone’s ability to work with complex numbers. Much more useful is the ability to recognise what’s essential and how to simplify various maths problems effectively. 

$47.38 is roughly $50. A half-pot bet from our opponent offers us 25% pot odds (since we memorised the value from trick number 2). 

That thought process can happen in less than a second. Does it matter that we are technically slightly off the exact value? Not at all, the estimate of our pot equity is not going to be precise either. There is zero value in knowing our pot odds to several decimal places. 

Trick 4 – Visualisation

Imagine our opponent bets $23 into a pot of $72. Perhaps we have memorised pot odds for different bet sizings, but it’s not clear right off the bat what percentage of the pot this bet sizing is. 

Try to imagine those numbers as physical structures such as bars on a bar graph.

a player’s head with this graph floating above as if they are thinking hard about the numbers

How much larger is the pot-size bar relative to the bet-size bar? We hopefully perceive that it’s roughly three times as large, meaning the bet size is around 33%. We know through memorisation that we are getting approximately 20% pot odds. 

The exact size of the bet is 36%, but it’s close enough, and we managed to avoid doing any actual maths. Whether this method is useful will depend on the way our brain is wired. 

The key takeaway is that there are ways of thinking about maths problem without involving ourselves directly in calculation. Mathematical savants often perceive maths as more of a physical landscape in their mind rather than a collection of numbers.

However, if we find this type of approach just doesn’t work for us,Trick 3 can help solve the problem nicely. $23 is roughly $25 and $72 is approximately $75. $25/$75 is a 33% pot-sized bet. 

The key is to never work with difficult numbers, always round up first to easy numbers.

Trick 5 – Implied Odds System

Implied odds calculations are the most involved and challenging of all the odds problems we face in poker. Through a combination of what we’ve learned so far, along with a simplified system for calculating implied odds, we should be able to remove a lot of the difficulty.

It’s useful to remember that, depending on the number of outs, we need the pot to grow to a certain multiple of our call amount. We can calculate an estimate of the ideal pot size by multiplying the amount we need to call by the numbers in the table below.

Number of Outs Implied Odds Multiplier
1  50.0
2 25.0
3 17.0
4 13.0
5 10.0
6 8.0
7 7.0
8 6.0
9 6.0
10 5.0
11 5.0
12 4.0
13 4.0
14 4.0
15 3.0

Notice that hands with either 4, 8 or 9 outs have been marked in bold. Most common types of draw, gutshots, open-ended straight draws and flush draws have 4, 8 and 9 outs respectively. 

Let’s see an example of how the system works in practice.

There is $100 in the middle on the turn, and our opponent bets $50. Do we have the implied odds to call with our flush draw?

Now, there will be some maths required here; there is no way to avoid it altogether. But using our system, the maths should be as pain-free as possible. 

For 9-out hands, we multiply our call amount by 6 (according to the table).This calculation gives us a rough idea of how big the pot needs to grow to justify a call based on implied odds.

$50 * 6 = $300

We need the pot to grow to around $300 on average. After our call, there would be $200 in the middle. We, therefore, need to make an additional $100 from our opponent on the river for our turn call to be justified.

We can then look at our opponents remaining stack and decide whether making $100 on average on the next street (after hitting our hand) is realistic.

Let’s try with another type of hand. 

There is $100 in the middle on the turn, and our opponent bets $50. Do we have the implied odds to call with our gutshot?

With 4 outs, using our memorised chart, that means we need to multiply our call amount by 13, so $50 times by 13. Since we are good at mental arithmetic, we break that down into $50 * 10 which equals $500 then add to it $50*3 which equals $150 for a total of $650. 

Since the current pot size would be $200 after our turn call, we need to make an additional $450 on the later streets. 

We shouldn’t waste energy by running overly precise calculations. The values in our implied odds table have already been rounded to the nearest whole number. 

Trick 6 – Equity Drilling

poker player in classroom sitting in front of a chalkboard with calculations written on it

Being able to generate reliable estimates regarding our pot equity is something that improves with practice. Rather than try to run calculations to establish our pot equity, it’s better if we can recognise various scenarios and “just know” how much equity our holding or our range is likely to have.

Some equity calculation software offers a “drilling” or “practice” feature. A player is presented with various scenarios based around one of the following -

  1. Hand vs Hand equity
  2. Hand vs Range equity
  3. Range vs Range equity

By dedicating special training time to making equity estimates, we take the pressure off real game situations. Rather than needing to perform in-depth calculations mid-hand, we are far more likely to have a reasonable idea regarding our pot equity automatically.

Trick 7 – Software Assistance

Would it be surprising to learn that many professional online players don’t bother with calculating pot odds? They generally make use of third-party software that does it for them. 

Of course, this option only applies to online players and some online players or poker rooms might consider using such scripts as unethical.

It’s recommended to learn to run odds calculations for ourselves rather than relying on scripts, but this easy poker odds guide would not be complete without mentioning this final option. 

Practice, Practice, Practice!

We have considered ways to simplify calculating poker odds and improve the quality of our mental arithmetic. 

We won’t necessarily see any improvement overnight, but with regular practice and a lot of patience,our skills can improve!

About the Author
By
Timothy "Ch0r0r0" Allin is a professional player, coach, and author. Since the beginning in 2006 he has built his roll from the lowest limits online without depositing a single dollar. After competing in some of world's toughest lineups (and winning) he now shares his insights and strategies with the 888poker magazine.
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