Implied Odds

Oct 22nd, 1999

Below are a few thoughts on preflop implied odds I scribbled recently in a short private e-mail exchange. I somehow feel that it was a fair attempt to make an obviously moot subject (to majority of players I meet fighting at hold'em tables, anyway) at least remotely understandable.

Izmet Fekali


Marge writes:
>Dear Izmet,
>In the 2+2 forum you state that,"You do not want to put money in early
>when in implied odds situations" when you were responding to somebody who
>was thinking about raising in the big blind with K-Q suited. And I was
>wondering if you could explain to me, or tell me where I can find a more in
>depth explination, how I'm shooting myself in the foot when I call or raise
>with hands that thrive on implied odds. For instance, if I decide to raise
>in late position with pocket 6's, because I think I can buy the button. OK,
>now I've got the button(essentially), but now I'm at somewhat of a
>disadvantage because of the extra money in the pot after everybody calls?
>How does this hurt my implied odds? I don't get it.
>Thanks for any help, Marge

By definition you are relying on postflop earnings when in implied odds situations and are therefore, able to call preflop with somewhat worse odds than it seems.

Let's take your example with pocket 66. There are two ways to play this hand preflop. You can reraise a steal raiser preflop to get headsup and are about 6:5 favorite against overcards. Note that this is NOT an implied odds situation. By being favorite, you are earning money with your early raises (although this hand is a bit tricky to play postflop). You are earning 54.5% (6/11) of any additional money going into the pot. As you are getting 50-50 payout on your raise (the opponent must call the same amount you bet), getting money in early is profitable.

Of course, this is not the best example of reverse implied odds, as you might lose a lot postflop when a scare card hits and you cannot know whether your opponent's bet is a bluff or not. But I'm sure you understand the logic. A better example would be a hand like AKo which will usually win more than it's fair share against many opponents preflop and therefore MUST raise for immediate profit.

Implied odds situations are quite different. As soon you are not headsup with 66, you are in an implied odds situation. There is no way to win fair share of pots with this hand, unless headsup. By fair share I mean a hand must win:

50% headsup
33.3% in three way pots
25% in four way pots
20% in five way pots
16.6% in six way pots
etc.

66 will win more than 50% headsup, but will NOT win more than 33% three way! That means you need to hit your set on the flop multiway, else fold. This is the only profitable strategy unless the pot is humongous, and you can get about 20 to 1 on the flop for a call.

Let's say the pot has been opened with a limp and a caller. You are on the button with 66 and call (correctly) as you do not expect blinds to raise or fold and are therefore getting 4 to 1 on your call. SB calls and BB checks as expected. The pot is now five handed.

Note that you are about 9 to 1 underdog to win this pot (there is a 7.5 to 1 chance to flop your set, but as you can still lose with it, 9 to 1 is about safe estimate for debating purposes), yet your call was correct because of the implied odds.

If you do not hit, you fold immediately. If you do, you can be pretty sure to collect the missing odds postflop. Note that if everybody folds on you on the flop when you hit, your play is essentially ruined despite winning the pot. You were counting on extra bets postflop or else your call preflop was a mistake.

How much do you have to collect postflop for profit when you hit? As you were 9 to 1 dog and only got 4 to 1 on your call, you have to collect 5 small bets postflop to break even. Sometimes you will collect much more, sometimes you'll collect less. Having only 4 opponents is about borderline. You'd be happier with more.

Now let's say the blind raises behind. Everybody calls and so do you (correctly, as a mistake has already been done and folding now would be even worse). You are still 9 to 1 dog, but your implied odds are cut in half. You got 4 to 1 on your money, but these are big bets now, not small. You need to collect 5 BIG bets now postflop to break even. This spells trouble.

If there were a reraise and everybody called, you'd still be getting 4 to 1 on your money preflop, but would have to collect 5 triple bets to break even. I'm sure the principle is clear to you now.

Note that it is of no importance whom raises preflop. The odds stay the same whether you raised preflop or your opponent. When you are raising yourself, you are cutting your own implied odds.

Please note a hand like 78s is NOT in an implied odds situation against limpers preflop. Suited connectors win more than their fair share and can therefore, raise for immediate profit. The implied odds with these hands are a bonus when they hit a draw on the flop.
There is a rule of thumb I constructed and I vainly (and somewhat in jest) call it "The Fekali Principle." It applies to preflop situations:

"Big hands should bet early; little hands will bet late."

It means the small hands (relying on implied odds) should see the flop cheaply and torture big hands later when they hit their draws. Conversely, big hands should put the money in early to charge drawing hands for the privilege. For more info on this see

http://groups.google.com/groups?oi=djq&selm=an_526705137

For best info on preflop play, see

http://www.posev.com/poker/holdem/strategy/preflop-abdul.html

... you will not find a better analysis of hold'em preflop play anywhere, including S&M.

There is some info on implied odds on my Loosest Games FAQ pages, but you'll probably have to dig around a little:

http://www.fekali.com

Feel free to ask again if I did not manage to make the explanations simple. Note that I'm a European and English is not my language.

A quick note: buying the button with 66 multiway is not a spectacular achievement. If you hit your set on the flop, there is not much advantage in being the last to act as opposed to being next-to-last.

--
Izmet Fekali
Burek Experts Ltd.
Catering the World since 1389!


In follow-up, Marge writes:
> Dear Izmet,
> Thank you soooo much for your help. You have an incredible gift for
> simplifying something to the point where even a nine year old could
> understand you.
> I found your paper on "Calculating Drawing Hands", and for the first time
> in my life I can understand the mechanics behind Inside Straights. You're
> my Hero!!
> Thanks again, Marge

Think nothing of it. Thanks for your comments.

> P.S Why is being next-to-last (to act) > more of an advantage than being last > to act in certain situations, as you noted?

When you hit a set on the flop, you do not mind getting raised behind. In fact, you would welcome it.

--
Izmet Fekali
Burek Experts Ltd.
Catering the World since 1389!