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Implied Odds 

Implied odds is a poker math concept that refers to the extra money that may be made on future betting rounds if one hits their draw.  In some cases, these implied odds make it profitable to draw at a hand despite not getting the correct pot odds.

Application of Implied Odds

Implied Odds Chalkboard

Implied odds are particularly important in No Limit Holdem, where larger bet sizes relative to the pot make it rare to be getting correct pot odds to draw, but exponentially larger future bets allows for a significant payoff.

For example, it's a $2/5 game with $1000 effective stacks.  On the turn Player 1 bets $100 into a $200 heads up pot on a board of J♠8♥3♣2♦.  Player 2 holds 9♥T♥ for an open-ended straight draw.  There is $300 is the pot after Player 1's bet and it is $100 to call, thus he is getting 3:1 pot odds.  With 8 outs and 44 unseen cards he needs to be getting at least 4.5:1 to have a profitable call.

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On the surface it seems Player 2 has a fold.  However, if he calls there will still be $900 left to bet on the river and the pot will be $400.  If he misses his straight draw he can easily fold and lose nothing more.  But if he hits he might make another bet, or an entire stack, from Player 1.  

To make the call he needs to expect to make up the difference between pot odds and required odds on the river.  In this case that is 1.5:1, which means that on average he needs to make $150 (1.5*$100) more on the river to make the call profitable.

To check that math, assume Player 2 can expect to make an additional $200 from Player 1 when he hits his straight, a reasonable assumption given the $400 pot size and exponential nature of bets in NLHE.

The 36 out of 44 times he misses his straight, Player 2 loses $100 for a $3600 total loss.  

The 8 times he hits his straight he wins the $200 in the pot, Player 1's $100 bet, and an additional $200 on the river for a total of $500 each hand and $4000 overall.  

This results in a $400 net win over 44 hands, or $9.09.  Because he has made over $150 extra on average from future bets, Player 2 has made a profitable call despite not having the correct pot odds.  

Most players who are betting the turn in such a pot will either have a made hand they are willing to pay off with, or possibly a bluff they will continue with.  The expectation of future action is the definition of implied odds.  These bets haven't happened yet, but based on the nature of poker, it is implied that more betting may occur. These future bets are, however, far from a guarantee.  

Determining Implied Odds:  Major Factors

There is always uncertainty when predicting future bets.  Once the additional odds required to make a profitable call are determined, there are several key factors to consider when deciding whether to call on the basis of implied odds.  

  • Stack Sizes:  There needs to be enough money left to be made to make for a profitable call.  Because the extra money we need to make is an average, the more money behind the better.  
  • Implied OddsYour Hand:  The more hidden your hand will be if it hits the better.  Flush draws are easy to see and opponents will be wary of paying off, while a deceptive double-gutshot straight draw will be much harder for your opponent to see until he's already paid off a bet.  Board texture is key here.  If hitting your hand makes the board look scary, such as putting out a 4-flush or a one-liner to a straight, your implied odds will be significantly lower.
  • Your Opponent:  The more likely your opponent is to pay off future bets the better.  Generally, recreational and gambley players are more likely to pay off despite draws completing, while more adept players will be able to make folds.
  • Your Opponent's Hand:  Using hand reading techniques throughout the hand, you should try to determine the type of hand your opponent is likely to have.  If his hand seems strong he will be much more likely to pay off future bets than if it seems he has a marginal holding.
  • Position:  Being able to act last on future betting rounds is a big advantage.  Your opponent may be forced to commit more money before finding out you hit your draw.  Furthermore, if he checks you still have a chance to bet, whereas if you try to check-raise from out of position he may check behind.

It is important to not go overboard with implied odds.  There is some guesswork, but calling pot-sized bets with long-shot draws simply "because of implied odds" is not good enough.  Relevant factors must be considered or you'll end up making a lot of negative EV calls.  

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A common play in NLHE involving implied odds is calling a raise pre-flop with a small pocket pair trying to flop a set (set-mining).  Starting with a small pair such as 2♠2♥, a player is approximately 8:1 against to hit a set.  

Despite infrequently getting these odds preflop, it is still nearly always correct to call.  This is because of implied odds.

Lets say in a $1/2 NLHE game someone makes a standard raise to $7 and two people call.  There is $24 in the pot and it's $7 to you on the button with 2♠2♥.  You're 8:1 against flopping a set, but only getting just under 3.5:1 to call.  However, because you can expect (i.e. it's 'implied') to make additional money against other opponents when you hit your set, this is a trivial call.  

Even heads up it is often correct to call these raises.  The math works out the same way as with drawing hands.  If you can expect to make up the difference on average, it is profitable to call.  Here we would have to make up a 4.5:1 difference, ammounting to 4.5*$7= $31.50.  Since the pot will be $31 on the flop, this will often be made up by simply having the pre-flop raiser make a continuation bet.  Not to mention you might win a huge pot if someone started with a big pair or hits a second-best piece of the flop.

Congratulations!  You're now the Master of implied odds.  

Ready to keep learning?  Check out reverse implied odds.