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Poker pot odds, when should we call or bluff ?

Poker pot odds theory is based directly on mathematics and probability. Unfortunately there are many inaccurate pot odds articles online. Also you can often hear poker commentators ( not all of them) calculating it wrong. For example pot is 100$, there is 50$ bet on the river and player is thinking should he call with his bluff catcher. In these situation you can often hear that he is “getting 3/1 odds” and in reality he is getting 4/1. So first time he calls and loses he is -50$, second time he calls and loses he is now -100$, third time he loses he is -150$ and fourth time when he calls and is right he is now break even. So he need to be good once in 4 times to break even with this call.

Of course here I am talking about exact same situation when it pops out. So when this situation comes many times and player calls every time and opponent is bluffing once in 4 instances he is breaking even. For simplification reasons I used river situation because that is final action but pot odds are used in the same way on all streets

Poker pot odds calculation

So out mathematical formula is a very simple one. Money invested/pot *100(to get percentage) . So in previous example we are investing 50$ and there is 100$ in the pot already + 50$ villain bet and +50$ when we call so total pot is 200$. 50$/200$ *100 = 25%.  If there is a 75% bet so 75$ into 100$ now our formula is 75/250*100=30%. So if we win in this situation in 30% we are breaking even. If we win more often we are making money, if we win less often we are loosing money. Easy game.

In the same way we gonna calculate our bluffing odds. In 100$ we decide to bluff 50$. Invest/pot*100 = 50$/150$*100= 33%. Take a note that for half pot size bet when we call we need to be right in 25% but when we bluff we need villain to fold 33%. So worse odds we have for bluffing than for calling a bluff.


How do we know how often is villain bluffing ?

Well this is one of the hardest questions in poker. You can make many assumptions based on information you have. Those information can be your memory of previous hands against this villain, notes, HUD statistics and also tells in live poker games. Tool that you absolutely must have in your poker study is equity calculator. I already explained how to use most popular one “Equilab” in my article poker stats basics, HUD statistics and using Equilab. So lets have an example how can we make assumption of opponent bluffing frequency.


Villain open raise cut off for 2.5$, we defend our big blind with A♠T. Board is T♠83. He bets 2.5$ into 5.5$ pot we call. Turn is 5 we check he bets 7$ into 10.5$ we call. River is 3♠ we check and he bets 18$ into 24.5$.

Lets first calculate our pot odds = 18$/60.5$ *100 = 30%. So we need be good in more than 30% in order to make a profit with our call. Second thing we need to think about is who are we playing against ? Is he aggressive or passive opponent ? How often will he try to bluff with his missed draws after he already bet at the pot twice ? Is he gonna value bet his overpairs for 3 streets ? If we do not think he will continue barreling with missed draws we have an easy decision. We have to fold our hand. We are not beating any value bets from passive opponent.

If the answer is yes or very likely than we have to make a calculation. How many bluffs does he have compared to value bets. Lets input all his possible hands into Equilab. We will give him missed flush draws as well as all value hands. (This is just and example in reality it is rare that player will bluff with all his missed draws).


Equity calculation


In this example our probability of winning against his whole range is 37% since we have 30% pot odds we have an easy call here. You can try making similar calculation yourself with different assumptions. Put for example also his missed straight draws with 9J in his bluffing river range and see how equity change.

Poker pot odds chart

So here I am gonna include a chart for most common used bet sizing. It is worth memorizing this chart or keeping it handy when you decide should you bluff or call a bluff. Of course first you want to judge your opponent. Is he a type that will bluff a lot on the river? Is he a type that does not like to fold his made hands ?

First poker pot odds chart is  for situations we are contemplating calling a bluff. Left column represent size of the bet so in pot of 100$ 33% bet is 33$. Right column is showing how often we need to win the hand in order to break even against this sizing.

Second one is when we are considering bluffing. Left column represent what sizing we are using and right one how often our opponent should fold in order to break even with this bet.


poker pot odds chart by pokerdiaries
       poker pot odds chart



Final thoughts

This is a beginners lesson but very important one. All good players understand pot odds and calculate their sizing and call frequency by this mathematics concept. You should try mixing different sizing when bluffing and see how your opponents respond. Look at the chart and see what is the most profitable sizing for every specific situation and specific villain. Good luck in your poker journey and may the odds ever be in your favor 😉

If you wish to continue learning try watching live play video on nl10.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Sergey

    How contact with admin?

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