Chapter 25: Implied Odds and Reverse Implied Odds
The other day I was playing in a $3/$6 game with a bunch of bad players. There was a lot of money to be made at this table, although it was a little wild because some of the fish were maniacs.
One of the maniacs, whose stats were 60/20/2.5, raised in early position. I called on the button and took a flop with 9s8s.
The flop was 7c6s2h. The maniac bet $50 into the $51 pot. Using my pot odd calculations, I’m about 16% to hit my draw on the next card (8 X 2=16%). Having to put $50 into the now $101 pot, it would seem I need a 33% chance to win to continue with my open-ended straight draw. But this is incorrect due to my implied odds.
Implied odds is taking pot odds but adding in how much I expect to win on future rounds of betting. While I’m not getting the correct odds to call with my open-ended straight draw if that is all the betting that is going to happen, I can expect to win more money since hitting a big hand like a straight is going to win me a big pot.
Let’s say if we hit on the turn, we expect on average to make another $250 off him. This amount we expect to win can vary greatly; sometimes he’s check/folding, sometimes we’re taking the rest of his $530. But we can guess to help us in our example. Since we now expect to make another $250 on the flop call, we can add that $250 to the $101 in the pot and assume we are now calling $50 to win $351.
We now need a 12.4% chance to win and can make a profitable call.
Of course, there are a million things to consider in no-limit hold ‘em that can swing this decision in our favor. Let’s say we expected to only win $150 more off our opponent. We would have needed a 20% chance to call profitably based on math. But I’d still call because:
Sometimes we will hit an 8 or a 9 to win the pot.
Sometimes the maniac will check the turn to us and we can see 2 cards for the $50 we called on the flop (thus making that alone a profitable call, since 8 outs X 4 gives us roughly a 32% to win).
In this example, we have a backdoor flush draw. We’ll make a spade flush about 4% of the time by the river, which gives us that added boost to our equity to make some close calls.
One key aspect that you can add when analyzing your implied odds is your ability to take the pot away on a later street. When playing tighter players, you can call a hand in this situation, planning to bet and take the pot away if they don’t have anything. So, sometimes you win a big pot when they have a hand like a big pair and you hit the draw and you sometimes win a decent pot when they check/fold a hand like AK on the turn.
This isn’t a golden rule. When an obvious draw like an open-ended straight draw or flush draw hits on the turn, players who can read hands may not put any more money in with a hand like AA when you make a big raise. When an obvious draw like an open-ended straight draw or flush draw misses, players who can read hands may pick off bluffs with marginal hands because they can put you on this busted draw.
In no limit, all these things are very circumstantial. It’s impossible to ever really have a perfect number for your implied odds. However, we can try our best. Having an understanding of your opponents can help you greatly in these spots. Some general guidelines that I use to help decide if I have implied odds to call when I don’t have the direct pot odds are:
How bad my opponent is. Against a fish, you will often be able to win more bets on later streets because they will call with a much wider range of hands.
If my draw is to the nuts or not. If I have a low flush draw, I’ll throw it away most of the time without good pot odds. The main reason for this is reverse implied odds (see below) and that flushes tend not to get paid off that much.
8-out straight draws are better than flush draws. I like calling to hit my open-ended or double gutted straight draws a lot more than flush draws. When the flush comes, people are very hesitant to call big bets if they don’t have a flush. A straight draw is more well hidden and will get paid off a lot more. It should be noted I don’t mean one-card straights (such as K9 on a 876 board). Those draws are pretty weak since if you hit your card you are rarely winning more money from your opponent.
Consider hidden outs. Hidden outs are ways to win the hand that you might not notice or consider. This applies to hands like higher flush draws like an ace-high or king-high flush draw, where you can hit your A or K and win the pot. This also applies to the backdoor flush draw or backdoor straight draw. These possibilities add a few percent to your chance to win and that can make all the difference.
It’s tempting to overestimate your implied odds. It’s fun chasing a draw, hitting it and winning a big pot. But often you are up against an opponent who just won’t pay you off. Against tighter and good opponents, try to find ways to steal the pot by semibluffing rather than calling because you feel you have implied odds.
Reverse implied odds
Let’s say I’m playing in a $2/$4 game. Two loose, passive players limp in position. I check the BB with 7s4s. The flop is 9sTc2s. I bet $10 on the flop with my seven-high flush draw and both players call.
The turn is the 5d. I check, the first limper bets $20 and the second limper folds. I fold.
I fold here because there is a good chance of losing to a bigger flush. Hitting your hand and then losing a big pot with it is an example of reverse implied odds, i.e. that in future streets, you can expect to lose money in future betting by hitting your hand. This can greatly affect your implied odds and turn some of these hands into fold.
Let’s further analyze the above hand. I have roughly an 18% chance to win. I have to call $20 to win $61. I think if I hit my flush he will pay off a $75 river bet. That means I have to hit my hand at least 15.6% of the time, so I should call.
The problem is in these situations you have to assume a flush draw is in his range and if it is, it’s almost always bigger than yours. And in these situations, he’s going to raise the river and you’re going to have to fold (although many would call a flush here).
Reverse implied odds can refer to preflop situations as well. You’ve almost certainly heard on TV or in beginner books not to play hands like AT and KJ to a raise, because of reverse domination. It means the exact same thing as reverse implied odds. By playing a hand like KJ, you sometimes expect to lose money even when you hit your hand as you will tend to get action from hands with better kickers. It has reverse implied odds in those situations and is not worth playing.
Again, always exercise caution when not drawing to the nuts, especially with flushes.
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