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Home arrow The Mathematics of Poker arrow The Odds of a Potarrow Position

Just as the number of needed cards you see reduces your chances of improving your hand, your position in the sequence of betting may also reduce the pot odds you are getting. If a player ahead of you bets and there is a possible raise to your left, you must be cognizant of the fact that that possibility cuts down on your odds. If, for example, there is a $100 pot and the bet is $20, you appear to be getting 6-to-1 odds ($120 to $20). However, when there is a raiser behind you and the original bettor calls, you are really getting only 4'/z-to-1 if you call the raise. Although the pot has grown to $180, you must put in a total of $40. If the original bettor re-raises, your odds drop to 3%-to- 1. The pot grows to $220 (assuming the opponent behind you calls the re-raise), but you have to put in $60. What's more, your chances of winning, even when you make your hand, have certainly decreased with all that raising going on between your opponents, suggesting they have pretty big hands.

How does the concept of position vis-à-vis pot odds work in practice? Let's say in seven-card stud you have four-flushed in six cards and a player to your right bets after pairing his door card. (The door card is the first open card the player receives. When it is paired on board, trips, or three-of-a-kind, is a strong possibility since the player may have started with a pair.) At the same time that the player with the open pair bets, you notice that a player to your left has caught a card that looks as if it has made him a straight. Before you call the first bet, you must be aware that the player to your left may raise if he made a straight (or even if he didn't). Furthermore, the original bettor may re-raise with three-of-a-kind or, of course, a full house. So before calling the first bet, you have to assess your pot odds not just at the moment but in the event there is a raise or two behind you. You also have to decide what your chances of winning are if you do make the flush. You would, of course, beat the straight, but the question is whether the original bettor is the kind of player who would bet into a possible straight with less than a full house or at the very least three-of-a-kind.

Adjusting your pot odds before calling a bettor to your right with players behind you comes up most often in games like five-card draw, draw lowball, and hold 'em, where position is important. Let's say in hold 'em you hold the and the flop comes

You would seem to have a strong hand with the top pair, but if you are in second position with a number of players behind you and the player in first position bets, you should probably throw away your aces. Not only has the player in first position suggested a great deal of strength with his bet, but he may get raised by such hands as an ace-king, ace-queen, and three-of-a-kind, which shortens your pot odds and further decreases the possibility of your ending up with the best hand. Additionally, the chance of calls from flush draws and straight draws behind you further diminishes the strength of your pair of aces. You face the uncomfortable double possibility of being second-best at the moment and of being outdrawn on the last two cards.

Similarly, in seven-card stud you might have to throw away a pair of jacks in the hole if the player representing queens to your immediate right bets. Not only do you figure to be second-best to the queens, but someone behind you might raise, thus reducing your pot odds and chances of winning. On the other hand, you'd probably call the bet in a late position, especially because of the deceptive value of your hidden pair, if you happen to catch another jack.

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