Playing Implied Odds In No-Limit Holdem

implied odds texas holdem

This is a special guest post by Mark Garnett.  Mark is a high stakes no-limit cash game player.

When determining the proper course of action at the poker table while playing no-limit Texas Holdem, it is important to consider a few things besides the pot odds that are being given to you. Among the most important factors to consider, is the size of your opponent’s remaining chip stack and your implied odds.

Implied odds are like a hidden treasure.  When you learn to look beyond what is already on the table and to see how much is possible to win from your opponent later, it is like having a treasure map.  If you can find the right situations to apply implied odds to, you will surely be raking in big pot after big pot just like a pirate hauls in his booty.

Rather than just considering the chips that are currently in the pot, a player should also think about the amount of chips that they could potentially win. The total amount that you could win when considering your opponent’s entire stack is called the implied odds. Quite often, because of your opponent’s stack size, a player can neglect to ever even consider the pot odds that are being given to them.

Farha Plays An Interesting One

A great example of this concept at work can be seen on ESPN’s 2005 broadcast of the WSOP. Very early in the tournament, Sammy Farha got involved in a hand with Anthony Curtis. Curtis is a gambler who has been around a long time, however poker is by no means his game of choice.

From an early position, Anthony raised the pot to 1,000 chips, which was an unusually large bet at the time. The bet was large enough that nobody would be getting the correct pot odds to make the call. But Farha, undoubtedly a passionate gambler as well, looked at Anthony’s chip stack and saw approximately 10K in additional chips. In his mind it was probably obvious that Anthony had a hand that he was going to put the rest of his chips into the pot with…more than likely A-A.

It was only going to cost Sammy 1,000 chips to see a flop. In this scenario, Sammy realized that he was actually getting about 10 to 1 odds when considering Anthony’s chip stack. All Sammy would have to do is make the best hand on the flop and those chips would likely be his. Since Sammy was holding a pocket pair, his odds were about 7 ½ to 1 for him to improve to a set on the flop. If you adjust for the probability that Anthony will also improve his hand so that Farha will still lose even when he does make a set, Sammy’s implied odds were getting a little closer to 10 to 1. This means that in theory, it was still a profitable decision for Sammy to make the call before the flop in this scenario. He was able to eliminate his opponent and pick up his chips.

How Many Chips Are You Likely To Win Later In The Hand?

One of the key factors that can give implied odds a sound mathematical base is the quality of your opponent’s hand. If your opponent has a weak hand, it is not likely that he will be willing to invest a lot of additional money into the pot throughout the hand. In this scenario, looking at the amount of additional chips that your opponent has in his stack would serve no purpose when calculating the value of a decision.

If the scenario is such that your opponent has a very strong hand, there is a much greater chance that they will be willing to put the rest of their chips into the pot. In this scenario, the size of your opponents chip stack is important to consider because your implied odds are much greater.

Consider some of the other ways that this hand could have been played. If Anthony had made a smaller opening raise, it would have been less obvious what his two starting cards were. If he had bet 400 chips instead of 1,000, Sammy would not have had as much confidence that he would be able to win all 10K in chips. There could be many weaker hands that Anthony would be playing this way. In order for the implied odds to be considered, you need to be relatively certain that you are going to be able to win all of the chips that you are looking at.

Other Factors To Consider

Since you should only consider chips that you will be able to win, you also have to take your opponents skill level into account. A great player will typically lose fewer chips when they have an inferior hand. To think that you are going to be able to win their entire chip stack if you have the best hand is probably not a very accurate assumption. But if your opponent does not have as much skill and experience as you, the probability that your opponent will lose all of his chips with an inferior hand will increase.

Another thing to consider regarding the hand in discussion here, Sam Farha had about 20K in chips at the start of the hand. He was in a situation where he could afford to lose 1,000 chips. Even if he were to lose those chips, it would have had little effect on the outcome of future hands. But if Sammy is able to go from 20K to 30K, he would then have had a much larger chip advantage. For a skilled player, this increase in chips can have an effect on the outcome of future hands and the way they are played. In other words, there was much to gain and little to lose.

When all was said and done, I think this Sammy Farha played this hand great. Sammy knew that he was against a weaker opponent. He also knew that he would probably be able to get all the money if he was able to hit the flop. Sammy also was able to realize that he was in a situation where he could afford to gamble. All of these factors created a situation where the implied odds were great enough to allow Farha to call an oversized bet, just because his opponent had a significant amount of chips left in his stack.