QI hear about "pot odds" in poker, but I don't really understand what it means. If I have a winning hand, why should I care how much money is in the pot? I just want to win the money. I knowBasil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games. He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling. Basil's website is www.smarterbet.com
some books say that I should look at the pot to see if it is worth playing. But I would rather win something than nothing. Why should I throw away a possible winning hand?
AThere's a big difference between a winning poker hand (an absolute lock or nearly a lock) and a "possible" winning hand (top pair or something like that).
Let's say you're playing Texas hold'em
; you have an ace-high flush, but there's a possibility your opponent has a straight flush. In most fixed-limit games it would be correct to raise twice, and if you're reraised both times, then you just call to the river. Clearly, a fold would be incorrect. On the other hand, holding two red aces on the turn when the board is four-flushed spades and you're facing a raise and reraise...well that's just silly. You should fold. Yes, the hand can possibly win...but it's very unlikely.
These are extreme examples of how pot odds affect your decisions. In the latter case (when holding two red aces), there is almost no amount of money that should cause you to stay in the pot. Conversely, in the former case (having the ace-high-flush), even the smallest amount of money would be reasonably worth chasing because you have a good chance to win. But in most situations the correct decision isn't so obvious, so players must calculate pot odds.
Here's how you do it:
Let's say your odds of winning a particular hand are 1 in 5, and you expect to lose $50 every time that you don't win. It follows then that the fifth pot must return more than $200 for you to earn a profit. Since you can't predict which pot of the five you'll win, every pot played with this particular hand must be worth at least $200. A pot that has only $100 is not big enough. So you should fold if the pot is too small.
Similarly, you should lure opponents into betting/calling when the pot won't pay enough to justify their risk.
Of course, this requires you to accurately calculate the probability of winning and the cost of losing.
For more on pot odds and the odds of winning a particular hand, check out Chapter 5 of The Smarter Bet Guide to Poker.
Enjoy the game!