In poker, you can make good money from the mistakes of your opponents. But first, you have to decide if it is worth the candle.

In this kind of situation, the potential hand winnings are wagered against the amount with which you need to make the following answer).

Let’s say you are faced with a \$ 20 preflop raise. The raise has \$ 500 and you think you can win that amount if you create a good hand. So you pay \$ 20 for a potential win of \$ 500, which gives you a potential odds of 500/20 or 25/1.

You have to be careful because potential odds are only useful in certain situations.

When to use potential odds

If you are playing against players who only call and never raise, or maniacs who play in any way, then the potential odds are useful since you have no idea what hands your opponents are holding. If your opponent is rock or plays tight for whatever reason, you won’t have this kind of problem.

In addition, if the value of your hand is obvious to everyone around you, you will not be able to extract the full value from it, so the same chances will no longer apply. Suited connectors and small pairs are the best hands to take your opponents by surprise, and this is where potential odds come in handy.

Example 1

The blinds are \$ 2 / \$ 4 and you open with a raise pre-flop to \$ 15 with pocket fives. Your opponent (the tight player) raises again, raising the pot to \$ 100. You decided to call an extra \$ 85 because your opponent has \$ 1400 in chips left and you think the potential odds are 1400: 85

But is it?

If your opponent has AK or pocket 10s and gets nothing on the flop, he is likely to fold. In this case, you call with \$ 85 to win \$ 121, not \$ 1400. This makes the answer the wrong move, because the odds of hitting a set on the flop are 7: 1, and you only get 1.4: 1 for your money.

If you knew that your opponent has a big hand and is going to use all his chips post-flop, that is a different story.

Example 2

Your opponent is a tight, predictable player who just barely made it to early position in a \$ 1 / \$ 2 cash game. After you’ve raised the button to \$ 10 with pocket fives, the player raises it again to \$ 25. a lift high enough to weed out players, but also a low lift enough to trigger a response or two.

You already know from a previous game with this opponent that he has a big hand. If you call before the flop, your odds are only 2/1 on the call preflop, but if you make a hand (say 7-5-2) you can win 15 more.

There are potential odds here, but only because your hand still has potential.

Example 3

You are in a real money \$ 1 / \$ 2 No Limit Hold’em game on the 6 ♥ 7 ♥ button. The under-barrel player moves and you raise to \$ 8. The under-barrel player raises to \$ 16 and you call his move.

The flop comes Q ♣ 8 ♣ 2 ♥, your opponent bets again and you fold. Why? Because you failed to improve your hand on the flop. You don’t need to know the potential odds to know that the game is not worth the trouble.

If the flop came Q ♥ 8 ♣ 5 ♥, then it would be time to raise with the hope of a straight and flush draw. Except that it didn’t.

Potential odds can be helpful, but use common sense first; apply potential odds in specific situations where you can get money after the flop.

Counting Numbers and Potential Odds