Implied odds are a term that most poker players are aware of, but very few truly know what they are. You will hear players cite implied odds as their reasoning for making questionable plays, but ask them what they are, and they slink back in their chair.
So let’s fully break down this concept and show you the shortcut for making simple estimates at the table. Push play and continue reading for additional examples and the implied odds formula.
What Are Implied Odds?
Implied odds tell you how much extra money you need to make on the next street when currently getting incorrect pot odds. It’s common to face a bet and find yourself with an insufficient amount of equity, but instead of mucking your hand, you should consider if the implied odds are high enough to justify continuing with a hand that could improve to a winning hand on the next card.
When facing bets and raises, first calculate your pot odds. If you suspect your equity is high enough, continue. If you suspect your equity isn’t high enough, consider how much extra money you would need to make on the next street to justify calling with incorrect pot odds right now. If both the pot and implied odds aren’t good enough, fold or bluff. If pot and/or implied odds are good enough, you know you won’t be folding.
The Implied Odds Formula
The formula for calculating implied odds is:
This may look scary at first glance, but there are only three variables at play. They are:
- EQ: your hand’s equity vs. their betting range
- P: the size of the pot after your opponent bets/raises
- C: how much you have to call right this moment
The final calculation lets you know how much money you need to win on the next street to offset getting immediately incorrect pot odds. And if the final calculation happens to be negative, it means you already have correct pot odds to continue and aren’t reliant on implied odds.
Simple Way To Estimate Implied Odds
The normal formula can be too complicated to use at the tables. But the good news is that there is an easy shortcut for estimating your implied odds.
I call this the “ratio gap method” and it’s super simple. You just do the following:
- What is the ratio of your current pot odds?
- Given your equity, what ratio would you need to have here?
- Multiply the gap between those ratios by what you need to call.
Take a simple spot where the pot is $150 after your opponent bets $50 into $100 on the turn giving you 3:1 on a call. You estimate that you have a 10% chance of winning this pot, so you would need 9:1 pot odds to continue correctly. 9-3=6. 6 multiplied by the $50 bet you are facing gives you $300.
As such, you need to make $300 on the river to justify calling this turn bet.
Mind the gap, multiply it by the bet you are facing, and ensure you can reasonably make that amount on the next street. Easy enough!
I built a free IO calculator and put it on my pot odds tool page. But to make your life easier, I’m including it here too. Just insert a few numbers and instantly get your answer.
Facing A Turn Bet Example
To ensure this concept sticks, let’s work through a few poker hands together. In this first example, let’s calculate the implied odds when facing a turn bet in a cash game.
On a board of K♦9♣5♠3♥, your opponent makes a $30 bet into a pot of $100. You have J♠T♠ and estimate the equity of your hand to be 8% since you assume you need to hit your gutshot to win the pot. If you thought a Jack or Ten on the river would also give you the winning hand, your equity would be higher than just 8%.
Given the pot odds of 4.3:1 and 8% equity, you are getting incorrect pot odds and need to consider implied odds. You could plug this into the implied odds calculator above, or do the formula by hand:
= [( 1 / EQ ) * C] – ( P + C )
= [( 1 / .08 ) * 30] – ( 130 + 30 )
= [( 12.5 ) * 30] – ( 130 + 30 )
= (12.5 * 30) – (160)
= 375 – 160
This means you need to be able to make $215 (or more) on the river to justify continuing here. Of course, if the stack sizes were less than $215, it would be impossible to make enough money and thus folding on the turn would be the best decision.
If you wanted to use the shortcut instead, you are getting roughly 4:1 pot odds and would need roughly 11:1 pot odds given your 8% equity. 11-4 = 7, and 7*30 = $210. That’s pretty damn close and much easier to calculate in a few seconds.
But you also need to discern if there is a good enough chance that you actually make that much money on the next street. So do you assume your opponent has a strong enough hand to either bet/call or check/call an overbet or bet/3bet the river? Are they actually going to pay you for hundreds of dollars on the river?
Moreso, are they going to pay you hundreds of dollars on YOUR improvement card? You win when the river is any of the four remaining Queens in the deck, but will your opponent bet/call a significantly sized raise when the river is a Q♥ and they hold AK or KJ?
By going beyond the raw implied odds calculation and answering questions like these, you can bridge the gap between a single number and your actual play.
Facing A Raise Example
Now let’s switch over to a hand where we face a raise and have to calculate the implied odds. In this hand, we have 5♠4♠ and double barrel on a K♠K♦7♠9♣ board. We bet 10K into 14K and our opponent raises to 40K total.
Their raise gives us a bit better than 2:1 pot odds, but since we estimate our hand has 15% equity, we would actually need closer to 6:1 pot odds to continue on this paired board correctly. Having only 15% equity suggests we think our opponent has many strong hands that leave us needing a spade to win, minus a few for the times the river is a J♠ and they have something like KJ.
So let’s run the math out.
= [( 1 / EQ ) * C] – ( P + C )
= [( 1 / .15 ) * 30K] – ( 64K + 30K )
= [( 6.67 ) * 30K] – ( 64K + 30K )
= (6.67 * 30K) – (94K)
= 200K – 94K
If we suspect we can make an average of 106K on the river the times we do improve to our flush, then we should continue. If not, folding is best. Given the stack depth and the fact that the button doesn’t have multipliers more than 106K remaining, we would need to be super confident that their hand is consistently strong enough to pay us off on the river.
Let’s also quickly apply the shortcut too. We are getting about 2:1 and need roughly 6:1 given our estimated equity. 6-2 is 4, and 4 multiplied by the 30K we need to call gives us ~120K. It’s not perfect, but in real-time, that’s close enough to be usable.
By doing this kind of practice between sessions, and being proactive with your calculations during hands, you can craft your lines more carefully. It sucks to bet/fold away your equity, and if you thought your opponent would raise your turn bets often, it might make more sense to check the turn instead. In fact, it could even be better to check/raise the turn yourself instead of bet/folding when you think a raise is coming often.
Practice With Implied Odds
As always, practice makes perfect. And when it comes to poker math, you can do tons of practice between sessions to make your real-time calculations more precise and much quicker.
To continue working on your math skills, especially pot odds and implied odds, I highly suggest grabbing your copy of the Poker Math & Preflop Workbook. This workbook lays out over 1,500 calculations to strengthen your technical skills between sessions. Do a few pages per day, and you’ll see serious improvements in a reasonable amount of time.
The workbook comes with a complete answer key, spreadsheets so you can complete chapters faster, and examples from both cash games and tournaments. Plus, the workbook is priced so that every bankroll can afford it. If you know you need some work here, grab your copy today.
Make implied odds something you calculate correctly and automatically, and start playing your drawing hands with way more precision. Your bankroll will thank you!