A Definitive Guide on Using Implied Odds Strategy in Poker
If you have played a fair bit of poker, you would agree that it is a game of uncertainties. It is a game where a bit of maths and probability is involved, and you will make money consistently if you are able to take more decisions with +EV (Expected Value) during actual game play. To be able to do so, you need to understand the underlying odds, especially the implied odds.
Implied odds in poker may not be difficult to understand. However, many poker players are not able to interpret these correctly during play which leads them to chase draws when they are not worth chasing, thereby resulting in costly mistakes. So, what are these draws that we just mentioned above? They are common situations/occurrences in poker where you will have 4 cards towards a flush or a straight.
In order for you to chase the right draws (that you should be chasing) and avoid the ones that are not worth it, you need to have better clarity around the concept of ‘odds’ and ‘outs’ (related to improvement of your hand at a later stage/street). Before you jump to the query ‘what are implied odds?’, let us first understand pot odds and outs, which will make it relatively easier to understand the overall concept and how it can be used to turn your poker bets into profitable ones in the long run.
What are Pot Odds?
What do you aim to achieve when you place a bet or even call a bet in any of the betting rounds in a poker game? Don’t you do it to win the pot? Of course, yes. This means you intend to win the chips/money accumulated in the pot. So, do you need to win all your bets? That would be a dream come true for anyone, but you know that it is practically improbable.
So, how many bets do you need to win in order to make it a profitable proposition for you? In other words, how often should you win to make this profitable for you?
Say for example, the chips in the pot are about 100 and you bet around 10 chips at one time, then, you can go wrong as many as nine times out of ten and still manage to break even by winning only one time and getting all 100 chips (against the 10x10 chips that you placed a bet with for each of the ten times). This is the main premise on which the pot odds are based upon. You are paying a small amount (number of chips with a single bet) to win a larger amount (the pot). And your bet or call is considered as a winning one in the long term if you have a greater likelihood of winning than you have to pay (through bets).
It is clear that the pot odds are important for you to win more money at poker by smartly placing bets of smaller amounts and giving yourself the chance to win the big pot money. Please note that the focus here is not just on winning – but, winning profitably. That is the whole essence of pot odds in poker - you have to be profitable in your winnings!
It may happen that you have a bigger chance of winning profitably at an earlier stage (at the flop or so) than at the turn or the river. Let us understand this concept of playing draws profitably with the help of an example.
Say that you have $50 in the pot on the flop stage, and an opponent player opts for all-in with $25. Will you be able to profitably call on the opponent’s bet with your draw? What is your risk involved? Isn’t it $25 to possibly win about $75 (the $50 pot + the opponent’s bet of $25)? This means you have pot odds of around 3:1 ($75 to $25), thereby meaning that you will have to win about 25% of the time for this option to be a profitable call for you. The chances of making a flush draw at this stage with almost nine outs and two cards yet to come, you can ‘call’ at this stage to be profitable in the long run (as there is 36% equity which is greater than the required 25%).
Now, just assume that the opponent player had opted for ‘all-in’ at the turn stage for the same bet and pot, instead of the flop stage. In such a scenario, you would have just one more card for making a flush. It does not seem a profitable option (to call) for you with just 18% equity (which is less than the required 25% mentioned above). So, calling the opponent’s bet at the turn could turn out to be a loss-making option in the long run.
Remember that you can possibly make a profitable call at the flop or at the turn even without getting accurate pot odds. This is possible through this concept, which we will explore later in this article.
What are Outs in Poker?
As you would agree, a strong poker player is one who is able to play well with limited information available at the start and subsequently improve the strength of his / her hand at a later stage/street. The card that can possibly turn up at a later stage/street and eventually help in improving your hand’s strength is known as an ‘out’ in poker.
Let us understand this concept of ‘outs’ with few examples below:
When you have a flush draw (four cards to a flush), there are around nine remaining outs to hit your flush from the 13 cards of the same suit that are possible in a standard deck of 52 cards. When you have an open-ended straight draw, there are about eight remaining outs to hit your straight (improve your hand to a straight).
Using ‘Outs’ to Calculate Your Equity (Odds)
Calculating the equity for your hand at different stages, especially after the flop is not a difficult task. You simply have to think logically and be aware of the cards dealt so far.
For example, in case of Texas Hold’em Poker, once the flop happens, you (and every player on the table) knows five cards out of the standard deck of 52 cards. These five cards include two hole cards in your hand and the three community cards visible to all. This makes it easy for you to calculate the odds of improving your hand on the turn or the river, if you manage a hand along with a draw after the flop. Remember there are around 47 cards which are unknown in the deck (as you are aware about the five cards) after the flop.
You can calculate the chances of improving your hand by dividing the number of ‘outs’ you have by the total count of unknown cards in the deck. However, this will involve considering the likelihood of improving at any one stage as well as at all the stages left. So, while calculating this at the turn, you will have to consider the following:
likelihood of improving only at the turn
likelihood of improving only at the river
likelihood of improving at on the turn and the river
This makes it slightly complex to arrive at the appropriate calculation during a poker hand. Instead you can use the ‘rule of 2 and 4’ which gives you relatively approximate calculations which are quite near to what you would achieve with the above complex calculations.
What is this ‘rule of 2 and 4’?
When one card is yet to come, you need to multiply the count of ‘outs’ you have by 2.
When two cards are yet to come, you need to multiply the count of ‘outs’ you have by 4.
Let’s apply this rule to the ‘example#1’ we considered above during discussion of pot odds. For the flush draw situation on the turn, we had 9 outs. So, this formula for ‘rule of 2 and 4’ gives us 36% of improving your hand (9 outs x 4). For this flush draw situation on the next card, we would have the chance as 18% (9 outs x 2).
What are Implied Odds?
Having now understood the concepts of pot odds and outs in poker, let us move towards understanding this concept. All these together are important to enable you to find out if calling a bet with a draw is actually worth it.
It is referred to as the amount (of money) you did expect to win at later stages (or streets) if you happen to hit one of your outs. These odds tell you whether it is a good option or a bad option to place the next bet against your opponent. It helps you to determine how much you might win on future hands on the basis of the amount you require to place the next bet.
Based on this concept, you can have two scenarios:
Scenario of Little or No Implied Odds
You are said to have little or no implied odds in poker when you expect to not make more money against your opponents on streets that are yet to come.
Scenario of Good Implied Odds
You are said to have good implied odds in poker when you expect to make more money against your opponent once you hit your draw.
How to Calculate Implied Odds in Poker?
While the calculation of implied odds is quite similar to the calculation of pot odds, you have to consider estimated future bets (future betting) for implied odds. You cannot aim to calculate the pot odds / implied odds exactly since it requires consideration of several variables inclusive of each possible card, every action, size of bet, and so on, that can occur at the later stages (streets). So, logically, you can only aim to get an estimation about the minimal amount you will need to win on later streets.
This concept of implied odds helps you to calculate the exact money you will have to win at a later street in order to make your current call profitable. Also, it helps you to determine if it is profitable to call when your opponent is likely to all a future bet only for a specific percentage of the time.
Top Things to Consider for Implied Odds
During the calculation of implied odds, you have to consider a few specific things to give yourself a better chance of making profitable bets. Let us have a look at some of these things below:
Flop Implied Odds
As seen earlier, you can use something similar to the ‘rule of 2 and 4’, to multiply your number of ‘outs’ by 4 (when you have two cards left to see) to get the chances of improving your hand on either the flop stage or the turn street. It may not mean that you will get to see both the cards at the same price. For example, once you call on the flop, your opponent may choose to bet on the turn, resulting in you having to spend more for your draw. You have to multiply your ‘outs’ by 2 to get the chances of improving your immediate next card, and multiply your ‘outs’ by 4 to improve your hand for either the turn or the river.
When You are ‘Out of Position’
When you are ‘out of position’ at the poker table, you sometimes may not have to think differently (to get more value from your opponents) or take more things into considerations before taking decisions to bet, call, or fold. Say you are on the turn street and have a bet from an opponent, but you do not have the favourable pot odds to ‘call’ with your draw. However, what will you do if you have right implied odds instead?
In such as scenario, you may find ‘checking’ as the easier option to move from one bet to the next as you get the opportunity to balance your hand ranges appropriately (for both value bets as well as bluffs). If you try out ‘donk bet’ while being ‘out of position’ once the draw is in, you would have to convert some of the hands in your range into bluffs so that you remain balanced. In such a scenario, it is difficult to get value from your opponent as you will either choose to ‘check’ with the risk of your opponent checking back at you. Alternatively, you may choose to ‘bet’ and give your opponent the opportunity to ‘fold’ and not give you anything!
What is the likelihood of Your Opponent Bluffing?
When you have an opponent who prefers to bluff even during the later streets – say at the river with weak hands, you get a great opportunity to ‘call’ with draws on the basis of your implied odds, even when you are ‘out of position’. Once you hit your draw and ‘check’ to villain, he / she will have the option to make another bluff, thereby giving you the opportunity to be more profitable (on the basis of the implied odds on the earlier street).
What is the Likelihood of Your Opponent to Continue Placing Bets When Obvious Draw Arrives?
In situations where obvious draws arrive and your opponent is a weak, passive player who is likely to fold or not continue placing bets, it will be difficult for you to gain the exact amount on the next street. This makes it difficult to implement ‘calling’ on the basis of your implied odds since you can’t extract additional bet from the villain. In fact, there is a good chance of you being more profitable by exploiting your opponent through frequent bluffs when draws arrive.
Clearly, the concept of implied odds is not so difficult to understand and implement as part of your core poker strategy. At the end of the day, it helps you to increase your chances of winning more money at the later stages or streets. It tells you the amount you are likely to win on future hands on the basis of the amount you need to use as part of your next bet, i.e., it tells you how profitable your ‘call’ or ‘bet’ is going to be in the future streets. For effective calculation of implied odds, the estimated future betting is taken into consideration.
This concept of implied odds can be very fruitful for you if you have a good amount of chips (or money) in your stack for betting rounds in the future. It can help you to convert a losing cause into a profitable one. You have to consider the strength of your draw as well as the possibility of extracting more value from your opponents.
It is easier said than done – all you need is to implement the implied odds strategy while playing more and more poker games on platforms like Spartan Poker online. Download the Spartan Poker app and start playing now!