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Know your odds - Poker pot odds

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Poker is an infinitely complex game where skills like the ability to read a person based on his/her gestures, the ability to deduce information based on partial bits and pieces and intuition are all called upon. Whether we like it or not though, cold hard Math is also part of the equation. There is a mathematically correct way to play the game. Whether or not you stick to this “correct” way is your own decision, and sometimes it is indeed recommended that you stray from the mathematically correct course of action, especially if you have solid reasons to do so.

The mathematical part of poker is based on odds. The first type of poker odds you need to get closely acquainted with are the pot odds.

The pot odds represent the odds the pot gives you for calling a bet. Let’s say there’s a $50 pot on the table and it takes you an $10 call to give yourself a shot at taking that pot down. This means your pot odds are 50-10, which is basically 5-1.
The pot odds are extremely important because they provide you a basis for comparison when you set out to determine whether the move you’re about to make is mathematically correct or not.

In order to keep track of the pot odds, you need to be able to count the pot well. While online the software does all the counting for you and all it takes is a look to determine the size of the pot, in live poker this is much more challenging. Make sure you have a fool-proof way to count the pot before you venture into a live game.

When all the cards are out on the table, your decision to call or not to call, hinges on the pot odds and on your chances of having the best hand. While the pot odds a relatively easy to calculate, determining whether you have the best hand or not is more of a judgment issue. The strength of your hand is important here. If you have a monster, the decision is pretty much a no brainer. If you have a decent hand, you need to determine whether your opponent is likely to be t a weaker hand than yours or not. If you can only beat a bluff, you have to weigh the odds on whether or not your opponent is bluffing.

Marginal hands, like a Q high flush on a board which has a 4 card flush on it pose the biggest challenge. This is where experience, reading abilities and gut instincts come into the picture. Mathematics will do little to help you in such an instance, so no, it is not the all-powerful weapon that will guarantee you success.

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