Explaining Odds and Fold Equity in Poker

An often misunderstood concept, odds and fold equity form the cornerstone of a solid poker game so it is important to understand how they work. The Tip Top Fox gives you the lowdown

Many novices get confused when seasoned players discuss concepts like ‘pot odds’ and ‘fold equity’. It is important to understand both if you plan on taking poker seriously. Fortunately they are simple concepts and form the foundations on which to build a solid game. 

Odds And Pot Odds

Odds are the chances of a certain event occurring. Certain situations crop up regularly, like the chances of making a flush or straight by the river if you flop a draw. Cards that complete your draw are known as ‘outs’ and can be calculated reasonably accurately to give you an idea of the likelihood of making your hand. Pot odds are slightly different and are calculated by comparing the amount of money you can win to the amount it costs to call. Pot odds = possible profit: bet/call amount.

Calling against the odds is a fundamental mistake bad players make regularly. For example, you have a $50 stack after calling in position with 8 9. The flop is 6♣ 7 A♠, the pot is $18, and your opponent bets $12. You have to call $12 to win $30 so are getting pot odds of 2.5:1 ($30\$12=2.5). Should you call? 

You have eight outs to make your open-ended straight draw (4 * Fives + 4 * Tens) so the chances of the next card completing your straight are 17.02% for odds of 4.88:1. You are getting 2.5:1 on your money so are not getting the right price to call.

Fold Equity

However, if you see both the turn and river you have a 31.45% chance of hitting your straight and the odds of doing so are just over 2:1. This brings us to our next point – fold equity. There are two possible ways to win in poker, either you have the best hand at showdown or you force your opponent(s) to fold. The only way to win without a showdown is by betting/raising. Unlike pot equity (the average amount a particular hand should win if the specific situation is played out numerous times) fold equity is the percentage of the time your opponent will fold to a bet/raise. 

Let’s go back to our earlier example. With $30 in the pot and a $50 stack you can’t raise without pot committing yourself, so it’s better to move all-in. You are risking $50 to win $130 (if you get called) so are getting 2.6:1 on your money and the odds of you hitting your straight are just over 2:1 making this a profitable play. If you think your opponent might fold and include your fold equity this become even more profitable. 

Crunching the Numbers

To work out fold equity, calculate (guess) what percentage of the time an opponent is likely to fold. The average gain or loss should take into account all possible outcomes and offer either a positive or negative expected value (EV).

Let’s say your opponent will fold 15% of the time. You have a 31% chance of winning at showdown, the pot is $30 and the bet size is $50. Your EV is 31% * payoff (opponent calls and you win at showdown) + 15% * payoff (opponent folds) + 54% * payoff (opponent calls and you lose at showdown).

EV (bet) = 0.31 * $80 + 0.15 * $30 + 0.54 * (-$50)

EV (bet) =  $2.30

You will win $80 around 31% of the time, $30 around 15% of the time, and lose $50 around 54% of the time. If this situation arose 100 times and you made this play after calculating your odds, pot odds, and fold equity with a reasonable degree of accuracy you would be $230 in profit, making shoving a better play than calling.  

In Summary

Knowing when to call, when to raise and when to fold is a key skill. A good knowledge of odds, pot odds, and a rough idea about your opponent’s hand and how likely they are to fold should give you a good educated guess to the best way to play your hand.

Related Articles

You can sign up as a member to view our poker hand matrix and a selection of hand range charts for both full ring and six-max cash games as well as exclusive member’s only content.

Are you 18 or older? This website requires you to be 18 years of age or older. Please verify your age to view the content, or click "Exit" to leave.