Implied Odds

Implied odds - which are essentially an extension of pot odds - allow you to better predict the outcome of calling a raise on a drawing hand. Find out how to calculate implied odds and how to use them in action.


Implied odds are important to understand for any player who really wants to optimize their edge. This is because implied odds - which are essentially an extension of pot odds - allow you to better predict the outcome of calling a raise on a drawing hand. More specifically, implied odds allow you to glean how much you stand to win (or lose) post-draw. This knowledge is not only helpful, but absolutely critical for players wanting to turn their passion into their profession. Making this leap means you're going to need to use every tool at your disposal to guarantee your success. 

How to Calculate Implied Odds

Here's the deal: there is no basic equation to work out implied odds. Sure, you can suss out how much you need to win to make playing the hand to completion profitable, but unlike pot odds, implied odds are determined through estimation. The good news is what you’re estimating can be factored in with a pretty accurate degree of certainty. Working out your implied odds requires that you have a solid handle on just two variables:

1. Your opponent(s)
2. The situation

Simple. The ability to recognize, identify and properly respond to these variables, on the other hand, is not so simple.  For this reason, implied odds are actually a pretty advanced technique. Ascertaining your implied odds require that you’ve spent enough time at the tables to quickly and aptly read your surroundings. It's not enough to know your basic skills and strategies, you have to have mastered the human element of the game and be able to read the subtle changes in your environment. Of course, acquiring this skill is hardly impossible; it just takes time – and since there’s no time like the present, we’re going to start now. 

The best way to think about implied odds is to consider them solely as the result of one of two possible outcomes: you either have good implied odds or you don't.

Let's look at an example of both to help illuminate what we mean.

Good Implied Odds: Masters of Disguise

When determining your implied odds, you can basically tell if you have good or bad implied odds by looking at how obvious your hand is. When your strength is stealth, it makes for better implied odds for you because your opponent cannot easily guess at your holdings.

Example of good implied odds:

Your hole cards: 8♥, 7♣
The flop: Q♦, 6♣, 9♠

Your open ended straight here translates into favourable looking implied odds for you. Looking at the board, your opponent cannot easily infer the merit of your hand. As such, you stand a good chance of not only winning that hand, but also getting some more money out of your competition in the subsequent streets of action. 

Bad Implied Odds: The Painfully Obvious

When the board and your behaviour makes it easy for your opponent to guess what you’re holding, your implied odds are poor.

Example of bad implied odds:

Your hole cards: A♠, 6♣
The flop: K♥, Q♦, J♣

Again, you're looking at an open ended straight but the community cards make it obvious to your opponent that anyone still playing the hand (like you) has a good chance of making a strong straight. As a result, your opponents are going to be reluctant to seed the pot - unless they are chasing a straight too. 

Your Closest Calculation

Just jonsing for a sure-fire way to calculate implied odds? Well, you’re pretty much out of luck. As mentioned earlier, there is no exact calculation for determining implied odds.

You can, however, work out how much you need to score from your opponent(s) to make playing profitable. The equation is easy enough:

(odds of hitting your draw) - (your pot odds) = the bare minimum profit zone (i.e. break even)

Using our previous example and the wonders of an odds chart, we can see that the odds of completing our straight are 5:1 and our pot odds are 2.2:1. 

When we subtract our odds of making the draw from our pot odds, we're left with 3.2:1 – our ratio of implied odds. 

Now, to work out how much money we'll need from our opponent to make our playing worthwhile, we are going to have to account for how much is in the pot already. 

Let's say your opponent bets $5 in a $5 pot. This means you'll need to call $5 to snag $10. To find out how much you'll need to extract to at least break even, simply multiply 3.2 by $5 and presto - you've got your answer. You'd need get at least $16 out of your opponent to make playing the hand worth it for you. 

Implied Odds and Pot Odds: A Perfect Pair

When recognized correctly, implied odds can help bolster your pot odds by allowing you to foresee opportunities to extract more money from your competition later on. Since you have a reasonably good idea of what future rounds of betting may or may not hold, you can also bet with confidence even when the pot odds are not necessarily screaming in your favour. This said, if you see you have squat for implied odds, then stick with pot odds.

Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker | Flickr