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Pot Odds

You've heard the phrase before, and may have even caught a partial explanation listening to the commentary on ESPN's World Series of Poker broadcasts, but really, what are Pot Odds? More importantly, what do you need to know about them to become a better poker player? Pot odds are, quite simply, the odds that help you determine whether investing more money into a particular pot is likely to be profitable for you, or put you at a loss. They are the odds that say when it is a good idea to chase a straight draw and when you need to fold two pair, based solely on the likelihood of profit.

The best way to explain how it works is with an example. If you have a pair of sixes to start and are in late position, and there are two raises in front of you, pot odds will help you determine if you need to stay in, or get out of the hand. With two players acting aggressive, you can count on high pocket pairs, certainly high enough to beat sixes, so you would need to get a set or better to win the hand. The odds of flopping a set are 7.5 to 1 (your odds of winning). Now, what do you win? You have nothing in the pot now, and if the game is $5/$10 and there are four players in the pot already, that's $40, plus two raises of $10 each, so $60. It will cost you $30, for a $90 pot. $90/$30 (your cost to play) is 3 to 1 on your money: your risk is greater than your potential return, so you should fold. If your risk was less than your return it is not a guarantee that you will win, but if you only play those kinds of hands then you will have a higher profit at the end of the day.

That was one quick example, but you can see from it that learning the odds of certain starting hands, the odds of filling other kinds of hands like sets and flushes, and doing some quick math will help you decided if you should stay or if you should go on any given hand.

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