Implied odds aren’t difficult to understand, but many players misapply them while playing. This leads to easily avoidable but costly mistakes, such as chasing a draw that isn’t worth chasing.
To help you avoid such mistakes, you’re about to learn what implied odds are and how they should help shape your strategy. We will cover:
- What are implied odds?
- How do implied odds work?
- Two example hands that show off the use of implied odds (including a spot that may surprise you)
Let’s get started.
What are implied odds?
Implied odds are the amount of money that you expect to win on later streets if you hit one of your outs. This concept, in combination with pot odds, is most commonly used to help you figure out if calling a bet with a draw is worth it.
If you expect to win more money from your opponent after you hit your draw, then you have good implied odds. But if you anticipate not being able to get any more money from your opponent on future streets, then you have little or no implied odds.
It’s practically impossible to calculate pot odds precisely because it would require quantifying and weighing countless variables — every possible card, action, bet size, etc. that could occur on future streets. The best you can do is estimate using logic.
What you can calculate, however, is the minimum amount you would need to win on future streets in order to justify an otherwise-unprofitable call. That’s what we’ll cover in the next section.
How do implied odds work?
Imagine you’re playing a $1/$2 cash game and you have K♥️ Q♥️ on the turn in position. The board is A♥️ 6♦️ 2♠️ 9♥️ — giving you the nut flush draw — and your opponent bets $15 into a $20 pot.
A quick pot odds calculation ($15 to call / ($15 bet + $20 pot + $15 call) = 0.3) shows that you need more than 30% equity to profitably call. Since you only have a ~20% chance to hit the flush with one card to come, you would have to fold this hand if no future action is taken into consideration.
This is where implied odds come in. Here is the formula for figuring out how much money you’d need to win on the river to justify a call on the turn:
You may notice that this is very similar to the formula for pot odds. The only differences are the added “X” in the denominator and your hand’s equity on the right-hand side of the equation.
Now, let’s solve for ‘X’.
This means, when you hit the flush on the river with K♥️ Q♥️, you will need to win more than $25 to make the turn call profitable. Since the pot is already $50, you would only have to extract a half pot bet on the river on average.
That result seems quite feasible, especially with the potential to win a huge pot in flush-over-flush situations. So, you should call on the turn in this hand.
Implied odds examples
Let’s run through a couple of examples to nail this concept into your head. Buckle up — this gets a bit complicated.
Big Blind vs. Button (single raised pot as the preflop caller)
Suppose you are out of position (OOP) in the big blind as the preflop caller holding J♦ 7♦. You’ve just called a c-bet on the flop. On the turn, the board is K♦ T♦ 3♠ 2♥, and you face a $50 bet into a $67 pot from the player on the button, who has $117 behind (you cover).
Your pot odds are: $50 / $167 = 0.3 = 30% equity required to profitably call.
This is what your equity looks like (highlighted in the purple square) against a pretty well balanced double barreling range:
You can see that we don’t have enough equity to call if we only take pot odds into consideration, as we only have 26.5% equity. But this is an incomplete assessment of the situation — we have not taken into consideration what will happen on the river.
We will make the flush on the river 19.6% of the time — let’s round up to 20% to make the calculation easy. Also, for simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that every time we make the flush on the river we win the pot (we would actually have the best hand ~96% of the time).
Now, we’ll use the formula from before to calculate how much money we need to win on the river when we do hit in order to break even on our turn call:
50 / (50 + 50 + 67 + X) = 0.2
50 / (167 + X) = 0.2
50 = 0.2 * 167 + 0.2 * X
50 = 33.4 + 0.2 * X
0.2 * X = 16.6
X = 16.6 / 0.2
X = $83
We need to win $83 from the button once we hit. The pot will be $167 on the river, which means we have to extract a half-pot bet in order to break even — and remember, the button only has $117 behind.
Since the button will not barrel 100% of the time on the river, especially when the flush draw hits, you would need to do one of the following to extract the necessary value:
- Donk-bet. If we choose this option, our opponent’s reaction must net us $83 on average. For example, if we donk-bet all-in for $117, the button would have to call at least 70% of the time.
- Check-call (or check-raise if he bets non-all-in). Again, this would need to net us $83 on average. For example, he would need to shove $117 at least 70% of the time in order to break even on our turn call.
These outcomes are possible, but neither is very likely to play out how we need them to. Unlike the K♥ Q♥ example, we won’t have the nuts when we hit, we are out of position, and there’s not much behind to win. All of these reasons make extracting the necessary value on the river a lot tougher.
You can see why, even with the addition of implied odds into our assessment, we still can’t profitably call with a drawing hand that is this weak. Our assessment does, however, show that it’s not as bad of a call as we might have previously thought.
Note: The calculation here is simplified to exclude a few factors that, even when included, have an insignificant impact on the result. These factors include hitting a J or 7 on the river and winning the pot when the action checks through, when we get over-flushed and lose a lot, and when we get under-flushed and win a lot.
Button vs. Big Blind (single raised pot as the preflop raiser)
Implied odds aren’t only used when facing bets with draws. They’re important when you’re the bettor as well. Consider the following situation:
You raise first-in on the button and get called by the big blind. The flop is J♣ 8♦ 5♥.
When you are trying to build your c-betting strategy, you can account for your hand’s implied odds. To show this, let’s take two possible hands: J♥ 9♥ and A♦ J♠.
First J9. This is a hand worth two streets of value, so the question is how do we extract the most value: should we bet flop-bet turn-check river, bet flop-check turn-bet river, or check flop-bet turn-bet river?
Let’s consider the possible scenarios when we improve to two pair on a turn 9 — a key strategic turn when it comes to this hand:
Scenario 1: You c-bet and get called. The turn comes a 9. You are now perceived to have a stronger range given that QT, T7s, and 76s completed. This means you will get less value from your two-pair and will suffer from reverse implied odds when your opponent has QT.
Scenario 2: You c-bet and get raised. You call and the turn is a 9 again. Your opponent will barrel very often on this card since his range has drastically improved as a result of his 76 and some percentage of QT and T7s hands completing. You are forced to call, and it’s not going to be fun going forward.
Scenario 3: You check and the turn is a 9. Your opponent now has a ton of possible bluffing hands, such as AT, KT, T6s, T4s, T3s, T2s, KQ, Q7s, Q6s, Q4s, Q3s, Q2s, etc. He will be putting a lot of pressure on you with these hands since his QT, T7s and 76 have completed, and you will be there with a very strong hand to call him down.
You can see from these scenarios that checking this hand is best. It plays very well on the turn by improving on the card that will be most viciously attacked by your opponent.
Next, let’s take AJ. With this hand, there will be some runouts where you get 3 streets of value and some where you only get 2. So, we’ll say this hand is worth 2.5 streets of value. How do we extract the most value?
Again, let’s focus on the turn that gives us two-pair — an ace — since this is a key strategic turn for this hand:
Scenario 1: You c-bet and get called. The turn is an ace. This improves your range more than the big blind’s, which means he will be a bit more reluctant to call a double barrel with hands like 8x and 5x. Regardless, you have a very strong hand with no draw being complete, and you will almost always be able to triple barrel for value.
Scenario 2: You c-bet and get raised. You call and the turn comes an ace. This card improves your range more than the big blind’s, which means he will be a bit more cautious about bluffing (in general). Still, your hand now improves to beat some of his value range and no draws have completed which means you have an easy call.
Scenario 3: You check back and the turn is the ace. This card improves your range dramatically and your opponent will check at a very high frequency. Consequently, you will get limited value from his bluffing hands.
You can clearly see why c-betting with AJ is a must in this situation. All scenarios encourage putting money into the pot right away.
Implied odds aren’t just important when you’re facing bets; they’re also important when betting. They help shape both your defending and attacking ranges, and can have a great impact on your win-rate if you use them correctly. A proper understanding of implied odds will help you generate very easy and profitable situations more often.
That’s all for this today! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and learned something from it. As usual, if you have any questions or feedback don’t hesitate to use the comment section down below.
And good luck, grinders!
Read more from Upswing Poker:
- Limped Pots: How to Adjust Your Strategy to Win More Money
- Suited Connectors: 5 Strategic Mistakes Poker Players Should Avoid
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