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Taking a look at implied odds

[ Posted September 16th, 2009 ] by The Dean

Any professional poker player will tell you how difficult it is to estimate your implied odds when deciding whether to continue in a hand or not. This process is made all the more tricky by playing on the internet where the speed of play is substantially quicker than live play. I have observed countless players, even experienced professionals make error after error when attempting to assess the merits of continuing in a hand.
Many authors have wrote about the subject of implied odds without fully underlining the fact of how difficult a subject it really is. There are many factors at work when attempting to estimate the future size of a pot. For instance, the overall calibre of your opponents will have a substantial effect on any future action that you will receive after you make your hand. Good players are far less likely to pay you off in many circumstances and the implied odds that you thought you were receiving on the flop may not have even been there at all.
The quality of the opposition is rarely discussed when attempting to debate the subject of implied odds and yet it is by far the most important factor to take into account. Another crucial element in the problem is the type of hand that you are drawing to and how concealed it is. Flush draws are far more obvious than straight draws and straight draws also differ widely when it comes to how concealed they are. Gut-shots and double belly buster straight draws will drag more money into the pot on average than a far less concealed open ended draw.
When you couple this with the complexity of all the different player types that you will encounter on the poker table, we have the makings of a very difficult subject. We could easily envisage many situations where two players are in the exact same seat with the same hand, same flop and same pot size. Yet, one may have a relatively straight forward call and the other an easy fold.
I have always been a very keen poker student as well as a very active player. In fact these days you will often see me prowling around on Pokerloco www.pokerloco.com/thedean which is on the Ongame network During my studies, I have never been afraid to use concepts and principles from other fields of endeavour that are non-poker related. I have always believed that if you are flexible in your thinking, then important facts and ideas can emerge in areas where most people would fail to look.
One such example involves the sport of horse racing and the work of professional gamblers in that field. One very successful pro punter who I happen to know personally has been using a very successful handicapping system for years. Historically, his system has been providing him with very accurate odds for horses in certain types of races. However, he once revealed to me that he will not get involved with a bet unless he has a significant overlay.
For example, If his handicapping system showed that a horse in a certain race was an 11-1 chance (I have selected this price because it represents a gut-shot draw), he would not bet if he could only obtain 12-1 or 13-1 with a bookmaker or on the betting exchange. His reasons are because the information that goes into the odds compilation is incomplete and the 11-1 is only an estimate and could therefore be inaccurate. This means that the price of 12 or 13-1 may be insufficient to provide him with an overlay. This problem of incomplete information also applies to poker because we cannot see our opponents cards (at least I never get to see them). On many occasions, we simply do not know how much it will cost us to play on or how much more money will subsequently enter the pot.
Imagine for a minute that you are seated in the big blind with a hand like 7-5 in a multi-way un-raised pot. The flop comes A-6-3 rainbow. The small blind bets out and it is now on you. Let us say there were four limpers and the small blind called as well. The pot is now offering you 7-1 and it is 11-1 to hit your hand. This is a very complex problem because all sorts of factors are at work here.
1. Will my hand win the pot if it improves.
2. My call will not close the betting.
3. Are my opponents capable of paying me off if I hit the hand.
4. My hand could get counterfeited and I could end up splitting the pot with another straight.
5. What types of players are to act after me.
6. Is the pot raised or not.
7. Does the flop texture indicate that a call will likely get raised.
The list could go on, it is fair to say that no player in the world has the ability to accurately calculate implied odds in limit hold’em on a consistent basis especially in complex scenarios and especially in speeded up internet play. In this problem, I would take a leaf out of my friends book and refuse to call unless I could be fairly certain of a substantial overlay. The two most important things to consider in this situation are.
1. How likely am I to get raised if I call
2. Will the pot reach a level that is substantially more than the minimum 11 small bets that I currently need for the play to break even.
The closer you are in your estimation, the better you will be. No two situations are the same because no two table line ups are the same. As always, there is no substitute for table awareness. Unfortunately, this means a lot of hard work but whoever said poker was easy.

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