Implied Odds – Part 2 by Andy Bloch

In my last tip, I discussed the basic principles of implied odds. As you’ll recall, your implied odds are the total amount you can win in a given pot, divided by the number of chips you’re putting into the pot. Put another way, implied odds calculate future action and betting that may occur in a hand, while pot odds focus on the here and now of the hand.

Now that you have an understanding of the differences between pot odds and implied odds, it’s time to look at some of the more advanced concepts involved with implied odds, along with some common mistakes that many players make by misapplying these rules.

  • Estimating Implied Odds – One of the most common errors that many players – both amateur and professional alike – make is to overestimate their implied odds in a given hand. For example, in season one of Poker After Dark, a certain well-known pro called a very strong bet of mine on the turn with nothing more than a gut-shot straight draw. He reasoned that I would never put him on a straight if he hit his hand and that I would pay him off on the river if he caught his four-outer

    While he may have been right, in theory, he still made a huge mistake to call me in this hand because even if all of my chips ended up in the center, he still wasn’t getting the right odds to call

    Let’s look at the numbers to see what I mean. My opponent was looking for four cards to make his hand on the river, which means he only had about a 9 percent chance of hitting. This means he needed implied of odds of at least 9-1 to justify his call, which based on the size of my remaining chip stack, he wasn’t even close to getting.

    Generally speaking, implied odds aren’t going to help you if you’re looking for four or five outs to make your hand. Ideally, you should have nine or more cards that can make your hand before you start worrying about the implied odds in a hand.

  • Miscalculating Implied Odds – One of the most common mistakes I see is when players think they’re getting implied odds, but really aren’t. For example, let’s say two players are involved in a hand and one of them pushes all-in on the turn. The second player in the hand is on either a flush or a straight draw, and makes the call.
    If the pot odds are correct here, it’s a good call. However, if the pot odds are bad, so is the call because there aren’t any more chips going into the pot on the river, which means the implied odds in this hand simply don’t exist. By failing to make the distinction between pot odds and implied odds, many inexperienced players end up putting their chips at risk more often than they should.

  • Telegraphing Your Hand – There are many times when players will properly calculate their implied odds in a hand and make a good call only to find they can’t get paid off when they hit their hands. Why you ask? The answer is simple: they telegraph their hand.

    There’s nothing wrong with taking your time when you’re faced with a big decision in a hand. Just remember though, the longer you take to determine what you’re going to do, the more information you may be giving your opponent about your cards. Let’s say you took your time calling on the flop and then lead out after a flush card comes on the turn. Chances are your opponent will drop his hand assuming – probably rightly – that you just made your flush.

    If your play in a hand looks obvious, it probably is, which means the implied odds you thought you had after the flop probably never even existed in the first place. In a practical sense, this means that you should factor your opponent’s style into your equation when you’re thinking about your implied odds in a hand. If he’s loose and a gambler, your odds are going to be better than if he’s tight and solid.

  • Protecting Your Hand – On the flip side of the coin, you should learn to protect your big hands against opponents who may be drawing against you. Limit your bets to about half the size of the pot to make sure you’re not giving them the right odds to call. If they do call and a scare card hits the board, you can still negate their implied odds by checking your hand down or letting it go if your opponent leads out with a bet.

  • Beware of Negative Implied Odds – This is one of the harder – and most important – concepts to grasp. Negative implied odds mean that you need to be worried about hitting your hand and still paying off an opponent who hit a better hand against you. If you bet out after making your Jack-high flush and your opponent raises behind you, you may have to pay him off even if you think he’s holding a better flush. One way to handle this situation and to limit your potential losses is to think of the total pot as being worth a little less than it actually is before you consider making your call. If the odds don’t add up, proceed with caution.

Learning the nuances of implied odds takes time and practice, but in the long run, mastering this part of the game is worth the effort. Learn to start thinking about what may possibly happen on later streets in a hand before you commit to any action early on and you’ll be well on your way to the next level.

Andy Bloch