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As Juicy Stakes Poker is trying to make poker math as simple as possible, we offer Part 2 of this tutorial series.  We will return to the idea of pot odds and go on from there.  We hope that you can assimilate the concepts we present here and manifestly improve your poker.

Pot Odds in a Nutshell

Let’s do a quickie review of what information we said pot odds provide.  Pot odds is a ratio of the risk you are taking in a hand and the potential benefit if you stay in the hand and win.  Juicy Stakes also emphasized that the money you have previously put into the pot is no longer your money; it belongs to the pot and ultimately will belong to the winner (minus the rake).

Rounding off to Make the Math Easier

The simplest pot odds examples use small pots and easy to calculate ratios.  So, the most logical question is: How do I calculate the pot odds when the pot is quite big and the bet is not an easy sum to calculate in my head?

The answer is to round up or down and then to remove zeros.  There are some players who say that they only round down but we feel that the simple rules for rounding up or down that we learned early on in elementary school are perfectly fine for rounding in the pursuit of a reasonably mathematical pot odds ratio.

Even two digit numbers are hard for many people to add in their heads so we round the numbers up or down.  This often gives us zeros that we can eliminate.  The ratio will be the same whether we calculate the pot odds as 90/50 or 9/5!

Ironic Difficulty of Figuring the Pot Odds in Low Stakes Games

It’s also important to keep in mind that if you are playing at low stakes, the pots won’t be very big but they may be in dollars and cents rather than in just dollars.  A pot that has $11.47 in it is a very small pot but it makes calculating the pot odds a lot more difficult.  In this example, we would round off to $11.50 rather than all the way down to $11.

If your bet is also in dollars and cents, you will be able to round to three digits.  Then you will be calculating the pot odds at three figures.  If you can’t make a reasonable estimate of the pot odds at three figures, you should round off to two digits.  The bottom line is tight, until you can figure out the pot odds in your head with two, three, or even four digits, you should continue to round off until you get to a pair of numbers that you can calculate the pot odds from.

Pot Equity

Now we have to introduce another poker math concept: equity.  While nowadays the term equity is a highly politically charged term, in poker it is still just a dry term that measures how much of the pot is “yours” based on the likelihood or unlikelihood that you will win the pot.  If the pot is $100 and your equity is $50 it does not mean that you can only win $50!   It means that you have a 50-50 chance of winning the pot.

Guessing what your Opponent Has

In order to correctly calculate equity, you have to have a good idea as to what your opponent is betting on.  As you can surely see, an opponent might be telegraphing a high pair in the hole and be betting on nothing at all!  This is the area of bluffing that works against the dry but tried and true world of poker math.

The Potential Strength of your Hand can be Expressed as Outs

In order to calculate your equity, you need to count your “outs” and compare them with the hand you think your opponent has or is trying to achieve.  If you are going for a flush after the flop and you already have four suited cards, you have 9 outs.

Now you have to make a reasoned guess as to what your opponent might be betting on and how many outs she has.

The Existential Power of Observation

At this point, we are going to stop the mathematical side of this part of the tutorial and go to the observational side of these factors.  Poker math is objective but a lot of it is based on previous subjective observations.

In the above paragraph, we said that you need to count your outs which is entirely objective and also count your opponent’s outs based on what you think she has in the hole which is totally subjective.

Pot odds are based on your chances of winning the pot.  That calculation is also based on the subjective value you place on your opponent’s chances of winning the hand.

So, as much as we need to learn the mathematics of poker play, as a powerful tool to use in making decisions that involve substantial sums of money, you still have to become expert to the extent possible in the subjective side of poker.

In other words, the objective side of poker which is represented by poker math is subservient to the subjective side of poker which is purely observational.

Pay Attention to all Hands

Poker players might get lost in thought about the poker math of a hand that they are no longer in. They often see this as free time to “practice” poker math in their head.  In fact, it is a good chance to practice poker math!  But it is even more important to use the time to practice watching your opponents!

If you put an opponent on a hand in order to calculate the pot odds and equity for that pot, you need to have a solid grounding in that particular opponent’s habits.  How do they bet in early position, in middle position, or when she is one of the blinds?  How big is her bankroll?  Has she had a few bad beats in this session which might cause her to chase losses with exaggerated bets?  Is she betting from strength or bluffing?

As you can see, poker math is very important but knowing your opponents is just as important, if not more so!

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