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Implied Odds

“Implied odds” is a term I originally coined in my book Hold’em Poker and have used in all my subsequent books.  However, while I was the originator of the words, I certainly am not the originator of the concept. 

Indeed, good poker players have understood the important of implied odds ever since poker has had more than one round of betting.

Most players realize that one of the key factors in determining whether to call a bet with a hand that obviously is not the best hand (when there are more cards to come) is the size of the pot.

When the size of the pot is compared to the size of the bet you get your pot odds. As an example, if your opponent bets $ 20 into a $ 70 pot, you are getting 90-to -20 or 9-to-2 or 4½-t0-1 odds.

If the odds against your making a hand that beats him on the next round  are less than your pot odds, it usually is better to call than to fold. If not, it is usually better to fold.

However, it may occur that your pot odds don’t seem high enough to justify a call, yet a call is in order.  This happens when you are getting high implied odds.

Implied odds are based on the possibility of winning money over and above what is in the pot already. More precisely, your implied odds are the ratio of your total expected win to your present cost.

For example, if an opponent bets $ 20 into a $ 60 pot, your pot odds are 80-to-20 or 4-to-1.  However, if your hand is such that if it improves on the next round you figure to beat him for another $ 40 on future betting rounds, you implied odds are $ 120-to-20 or 6-to-1. 

It is these implied odds that must be evaluated before deciding whether to play a hand.Obviously, implied odds are most significant in no-limit or pot-limit games. 

In these games, one almost always is considering what can be won on a future round of betting rather than simply how much is in the pot right now.

For instance, it may be right to go for an inside straight in no-limit hold’em getting very poor pot odds if you feel you can make a big bet or raise and get called if you do hit it:


   You                                  Opponent

If your opponent makes a small bet and has plenty of money left, it may be right to call him in hopes of catching an 8 to bust him.

The importance of implied odds is not as great in limit games, but it still exists. It is most likely to come up in an early round of betting.

Implied odds can be especially relevant if this early round of betting is relatively cheap as compared to future rounds. For instance, most of the $ 1-$ 3 seven-card stud games in Las Vegas start off with a 50-cent bet.

In these games it is not correct to play very tight for this initial bet, especially against the weak poker players usually found in this game.  If you can see fourth street for only 50 cents you should, for example, call for me card with any pair as long as your cards are live.

Your high implied odds justify this call especially against these opponents.  If you make two pair or three-of-a-kind, you figure to get action from lesser hands.

Don’t forget that when you estimate your implied odds you must try to predict what you can win if you do make your hand.  This prediction depends on three things:

  1. The size of future bets.
  2. The ability of your opponent.
  3. How “hidden” your hand is.

Obviously, the larger the size of possible future bets, the more apt you would be to call with a hand that might improve to nuts but is not yet getting high enough pot odds.

When you have a close decision, you should usually tend to call more readily against weaker opponents than tougher ones.

This is because you can usually assume that you are getting higher implied odds from a weak player who is more apt to call your bet when you do make your hand than a tough player would be.

(However, there are some situations where the opposite is true.  In certain cases, a tough player can be trapped by a check-raise when you hit your hand while a weaker player may not bet.)

Along these same lines, it is important that you have a hidden hand if you are adding the possibility of future bets to the present pot to get your implied odds. 

If the cards that help your hand are obvious to your opponents, you cannot expect to get as much value out of your hand if you do make it. 

Only if your good cards are not obvious (or if you get it face down) can you expect to get a call or possibly even a raise or check-raise when you do catch them.

Finally, an important word of caution. Implied odds have little meaning if there is a decent chance that you can make your hand but still wind up second best.

In other words, if you are going to take a short price from the pot in hopes of winning future bets, you had better be awfully sure that your hand will hold up when you make it.

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