Pot Odds and Expected Value

You will frequently face situations in poker, when you do not have a made hand on the flop but you have some kind of a draw, your opponent bets or raises and you have to decide whether to call or fold. Pot odds and expected value are tools that can solve such problems.

Pot odds

Pot odds are calculated by dividing the amount of chips required to call a bet by the pot size after you make the call and converting it into percentage.

Pot odds example

There is $100 in the pot and your opponent bets $50. What are your pot odds?

You have to call $50. If you make the call, the pot will grow to $200. To calculate your pot odds, you have to divide $50 by $200, which gives 0.25. Your pot odds are 25%.

Pot odds can be applied also to situations when you consider betting or raising as a bluff and you want to estimate its profitability. You just have to divide your bet/raise size by the total pot size after you make the bet/raise.

Expected value

Pot odds help calculate the expected value of specific plays in poker. If you face a situation like in the example mentioned above, with 25% pot odds, you have to win more than 25% of the time for the call to be profitable. In other words, you have to win more than 1 in 4 times.

Let’s do a quick calculation, if you win 1 in 4 times, one time you will make a $150 profit ($200 pot less your $50 call) and the other 3 times you will lose $50, then you will break even ($150 – 3 x $50 = 0).

Expected value is about comparing your poker odds to the pot odds. They will almost never match each other so there are two kinds of decisions in poker:

 EV+ - correct decisions with positive expectation - poker odds > pot odds
 EV- - incorrect decisions with negative expectation - poker odds < pot odds

There are exceptions from this rule, when, instead of immediate poker odds, you use implied odds or reverse implied odds.

Every EV- play is a mistake that will cost you money in the long run. Nobody in the world plays a totally mistake-free poker. However, the better the player, the more EV+ decisions they make and the more often they make profit from other players’ EV- plays.

Expected value example

You hold JT and the flop is 982. There is already $90 in the pot and your heads-up opponent bets all-in $100. Your opponent is crazy and is capable of betting with anything and nothing. Is calling an EV+ move?

You have 9 outs to a flush (including straight flush), 6 outs to a straight, and 6 outs to a top pair, making it 21 outs in total. Since your opponent is all-in, there will be no further bets and you will see the showdown, if you make the call. According to the poker odds chart, your odds are 69.94%.

If you call, there will be $280 in the pot. Your pot odds are $90 / $280 = 0.32 = 32%. Your poker odds exceed the pot odds so calling your opponent’s bet has a positive expectation and it is correct.

In fact, you do not even have to calculate the pot odds in this example. In case of calling bets and raises, the pot odds will never be higher than 50% so if your poker odds are 50% and more, you can skip calculating the pot odds. Pot odds can exceed 50% only when you raise or overbet, i.e. make a bet that is bigger than the pot.

Whenever your poker odds are 50% and better, you can consider your hand the nuts and do not have to worry about the pot odds.

More articles on poker probability:

 Poker odds calculator
 Poker outs and odds
 Sklansky bucks
 Implied odds
 Reverse implied odds
 Poker hand probability chart
 Common preflop odds chart
 Common flop odds chart
 Pocket pairs - flopping overcards odds

Go back to the Online Poker Strategy.