Poker Strategy - 2/8 - Implied Odds

This is the second part of an eight-part guide to the basics of poker strategy. If you have already read this tutorial, then you can access the third part here. If you missed the previous part, "Odds and Outs", then you'll find it here.

Implied Odds

When you use pot odds in Texas Hold'em, you're working out the relationship between the amount of money there is to be won in a hand, and the amount of money you need to put into the pot in order to stay in the hand. The amount you stand to win in such a scenario is the cash that's already in the pot.

"Implied Odds" is another way of working out this relationship, but when you use implied odds you also include the money that you might win - the total of money that's in the pot right now and the money that is likely to be won depending on what happens when subsequent streets are dealt.

If you use implied odds it means that sometimes you can call when the pot odds say that you shouldn't. The limitation with pot odds is that they only deal with the pots and the cards as they stand - they don't really take into account the money that is going to be added to the pot after further cards have been dealt and bets made.

Calculating whether you are able to stay in a hand by using implied odds is a three stage process:

[1] Calculate what you require to win so that you can make a profitable call

[2] Make accurate assumptions as to whether you are able to actually win this amount

[3] Work out how strong your draw actually is

How much do I still need to win?

Frequently when you play Hold'em you will be faced with a possible bet after the flop has been dealt in which the pot odds tell you that you should fold your cards and give up the pot. In some cases though, you don't necessarily need to fold and leave the hand - it's dependent upon how much money you can win if you do complete your draw and end up with a good hand.

For example, let's say you have TJ as your pocket cards. The flop is dealt: A38. There's $20 in the pot, and the only other player who remains in the hand makes a bet of $20. Your odds of hitting an out (one of the nine remaining s) are around 4:1, and the pot odds are 3:1 (pay $20 to win $60), so you should really fold.

However, there is still the turn and the river to come. What might you win if you were to stay in the hand and you completed your flush? You need to calculate how much this might be.

You know that your hand odds are 4:1. How much should there be to make the pot odds 4:1? If there had been $40 in the pot, and your opponent has bet $20, then you would have needed to bet $20 to win $80 - hey presto, these are the correct pots odds at which to make a call. The question is - what it the likelihood of you making up this missing $20 on the turn or the river?

Can I win the "missing" amount?

When you're considering whether it is worth staying in the hand, you need to work out how likely it is that your opponent has a hand that's strong enough for his to remain in the hand and put more money for you to win into the pot.

How has your opponent been playing so far? Tight, or loose? Do they pay to see most flops, no matter how strong their pocket cards are? Do they bluff a lot? Do they pay to get to most showdowns, and yet their final hands show they should have folded garbage a couple of streets ago? If you can answer yes to most of these questions, then you can use implied odds.

Another factor to consider is the "obvious-ness" of your hand. Three s on the flop means anyone with a pair of diamonds or a high diamond (if another diamond pops out on the turn or the river) is going to take the pot. Obviously straight flops such as K♣Q♣T tend to reveal that anyone remaining in the hand has a jack, or a jack and an ace or nine. A good "disguised hand" is K♠K with a Q9♠5 flop.

You also need to consider your position. You're in a much stronger position if you're in late position than early.

How large is your opponent's stack? You can only get money out of your opponent if he has enough to bet, and of course if he's sitting on a nearly depleted bankroll, then he's going to be less willing to throw in chips that he's unlikely to see again.

Are you post-flop or on the turn? You can award yourself higher implied odds if there are two cards left to be dealt, and not one.

How strong is my draw?

If you have a flush draw or an open-ended straight draw then these are much stronger draws than obvious draws. In poker, it is not just about having the best hand. It's about obtaining the most money for the hand.

Let's consider a real-life hand. Your pocket cards are rather pleasing: KQ♠. The flop is not such good news: T♣93♣. You really only have four outs (the four jacks), and only two chances to get them. True, you may gather top pair on the turn or river, but the more cards that come, the more likely someone is beating you. Despite your KQanyone with a T, 9 or 3 is currently beating you, as is anyone with QJ, or an A or a K with a T or a 9 (or even a 3). Anyone else holding an ace is also likely to beat you should one pop out on the turn or the river. You need to able to work all this out, and fast!

Unclean Outs

You also need to have an understanding of "unclean" outs. An unclean out is one that will improve your hand, but is also likely to improve an opponents hand as well. Say you had 89♠ and the flop was dealt AJT - normally you would have eight outs (four Qs and four 7s) but with two s on the board you have to consider that your opponent saw the flop holding a couple of s. So, the Q or 7on will complete your straight, but it will also make your opponents' flush. You opponent may also have a high as part of a good hole card combination - four s on the board will ruin your straight. Unlclean outs should be ignored as they can lead to reverse implied odds, where the odds of your hand being a winning hand is actually less than it appears.

Using implied odds allows you to remain in hands where pot odds tell you to quit - however, they should be used fleetingly when you're beginning to play Texas Hold'em poker as they can take a long time to master.

This concludes the second lesson in an eight-part series on the basics of poker strategy. To view the next article, click here.

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