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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, Feb. 2005, #61



By Bill Burton

Bill Burton is an advantage blackjack player and skilled poker player. He is the author of the book, "Get the Edge at Texas Low Limit Holdíem", available at 10% discount from the BJI online store, and the guide at



Blackjack card counters increase their bets when the deck is rich with high cards because they know that the odds are in their favor when the deck is positive. They cut back their bets when the odds are not in their favor. Poker players get their money in the pot when the pot odds justify making the call and pass when the money in the pot is not enough to call. The relationship between the amount of money in the pot and the cost of calling a bet is known as Pot Odds.

Although Poker is not as automatic as Blackjack, they both involve knowing the math behind making correct decisions. Understanding the math of the game is very important to playing winning poker. You can have the identical hand and one time it will be correct to call and the next time it will be correct to fold. How can that be? The answer is the pot odds.

Many low limit and higher limit Texas Hold'em players have no concept of pot odds and how it can affect their profitability. They only look at their two cards to see if there is a chance that they could win. They don't understand the reasoning for playing drawing hands against a large field of opponents. Some hands that are profitable against many players will be a loser or break even hand with fewer players in the hand.

Letís look at an example to see how pot odds can affect your profitability. Every poker player has heard the advice to "Never draw to an inside straight." In many situations it is truly the correct advice, however not always.

You are playing in a $2/4 limit game. You hold the Ten and 9 of clubs: The board cards are Kd Ė 7s- 6h Ė 2c. It will cost you $4 to see the river card.

The only card that can help you is an 8. There are four of them left in the deck. With your two hole cards and the four on the board you have seen 6 of the fifty two cards in the deck so there are 46 unseen cards left. Four times you will catch the 8 and 42 times you wonít so the odds are 42 to 4 or 10.5 against you. You get this figure by dividing 46 by 4 and you get 11.5. Subtract 1 and you have 10.5 to 1.

In order to make a call of $4 to try for an inside straight the pot must contain $42 in order for you to break even and more than that if you want to make a profit. Here is where that figure comes from: You will lose $42 for the 10.5 times you donít catch an 8 ($4 bet x 10.5 = 42.) The one time you do catch the 8 you will make money in the long run if the pot contains more than $42 and you will lose if the pot contains less than $42.

Remember, The Pot Odds is relationship between the money in the pot and the price of a bet you must make to call. If the pot contains $44 and the size of the bet you must call is four dollars we divide the $44 by $4 and we get 11, which means that the pot odds are 11 to 1. The odds against making an inside straight are10.5 to one so the pot odds are greater than the odds against making your hand. You should call.

Keeping Track

If you sit down in a low limit game (even some of the higher ones) the majority of the players have no concept about pot odds and Iíll bet 80 percent or more are not even bothering to count the money in the pot.

Many players feel that trying to keep track of the money in the pot is a difficult thing to do. It is really not that hard to do. The secret is to count the bets. It is easier to keep track of the number of bets instead of the actual money in the pot. After each betting round the dealer announces how many players are active in the pot. If there have been no raises you know how many bets have been put in by the number of players active in the hand. During the first betting round before the flop it is uncommon for players to fold once they enter the pot. If there has been a raise just double the number of players and you know the total bets before the flop.

After the flop count the bets put in by the players in front of you during each round. When it is your turn to act, you will have an accurate determination of the pot odds up to that point. You do not know what the players acting after you will do. On the last two betting rounds the limits double and you must adjust your count to reflect this. It is easy to do just divide the number of bets that were made in half.

When you play poker online you donít even have to worry about counting bets. The amount of money in the pot is displayed for you. All you have to do is look at the screen and you know exactly how much money is in the pot. You can even have a calculator right next to you to determine your odds at any time but still many players choose to ignore the pot odds or they just donít understand their importance. Next month Iíll discuss how to figure your outs and how to apply pot odds to determine your odds of winning the hand.

Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever!"






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