In the last issue of GamingToday, we presented my favorite card odds, and added a relevant and significant comment about each. Each of these odds is unique, and you can apply various concepts to make the most of it as you strive to win more chips. Today, let’s go into some depth to analyze one of the most common situations you are bound to experience with a typical drawing hand. What is the best way to play such hands to be a winner?
Knowing the card odds is just one important part of the story. It’s a good start, but by itself it gives you minimal advantage over your opponents in that hand. The skilled player takes this information one giant step further. In particular, he looks at the pot odds – how many chips are already in the pot he hopes to win by making the best hand using the subsequent up-card(s) to be dealt.
If the pot odds are higher than his card odds, he will be a winner in the long run. We often label this a “positive expectancy” – in contrast with a “negative expectancy” when the pot odds are much lower. Be sure you have a positive expectancy often enough, and you are bound to go home a winner. And, of course, that’s your main goal. The more often you can achieve this goal, the happier you are.
By way of illustration, let’s consider the case when you catch four-to-a-flush on the flop. Your card odds are about 2-to-1 against making your flush on either the turn or the river. An opponent has bet before you. To see the next card – the turn – you must call his bet. A quick glance at the board, and you readily observe there are more than two bets in the pot. Of course, you call that bet.
Let’s take this one step further. There are three opponents who have made the bet before you must act. Almost certainly they would call your raise – even if you deigned to do so with just your drawing hand. I call this the “money odds.” It’s akin to getting 3-to-1 pot odds versus your 2-to-1 card odds. That’s extra chips you would add to your win.
Of course, it is quite possible you will miss on the turn. With just the river card to come, your card odds against connecting roughly double to 4-to-1. There’s a bet before you. Should you call? In this case the pot odds are well over 4-to-1, so you call to see the river – and hope for the best. In the long run, as we said before, you do have a positive expectancy. And that will make you a winner in the long run.
On the other hand, there will be cases when the pot odds aren’t quite equal to your card odds on the river. Now, consider the implied pot odds. If you get lucky and do make your hand on the river, how many more chips can you expect your opponents to put into the pot? If the total chips in the pot are expected to be greater than your card odds, then you have your desired positive expectancy – and certainly should stay to see the river – and hope.
Who said playing poker was a cinch. Learn/develop the requisite skills if your goal is to be a winner – even if you are just playing for recreation. Or else.