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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Figuring Your Pot Odds in Split-Pot Games

11 October 2003

Whenever you're considering your pot odds to determine whether to continue playing your poker hand, you're probably not in the lead. Believe it or not, there's a certain advantage in that. The advantage is if you don't improve, you usually won't have to call a bet at the river. As a result, when you're chasing you're often getting better pot odds than the leader in the hand since you'll usually save the last bet when you miss. This factor does funny things to your pot odds in split-pot games.

For example, if you're going to the river in a "high only" game and you're a 4-to-1 shot to make the winner, but will get 8-to-1 odds from the pot if you hit -- you should go for it. That's easy. But how about in high/low split? There, you'd get only half the pot. In that exact same situation you should probably fold! That's because getting 8 to 1 when you win the whole pot typically boils down to getting only about 3 to 1 when you have to split it. Sound wrong? It's not! To see how this works, let's look at an unusually clear-cut $50/$100 Omaha high/low split example. Suppose you're in a three-way pot and you hold:

Ah/Ac/6h/Kc

and on fourth street the board is:

Ad - 4d - 6s - 5d

There's a bet and a call -- now it's up to you. With the low virtually certain and both straights and flushes very likely, it's obvious that you need to make Aces full to win half and have nine live cards to do it with (one Ace, three 4s, two 6s and three 5s out of 44 unseen cards). That makes you just about a 4-to-1 shot. The pot contains $600 thus far. If you call (bringing the current pot to $700) and miss at the river, you'll fold losing just $100. If you fill up, counting your river bet and a $100 call from each of the other two players (with no raises), there'll be $1000 in the pot when it's over. If you could have won it all, you'd have netted 8-to-1 pot odds on your $100 fourth street call. But when you win only half, you'll get back just $500. After subtracting your own money, you'll have made only $300 profit, or 3-to-1 pot odds. And since you're a 4-to-1 underdog to fill, the surprisingly correct play is to just fold your three Aces on the turn! You're simply not getting a good enough price to fill.

If the pot was 4-way action you might get paid off somewhat better -- but either way, you'd need to get in some raises and split a $1400 pot to make playing worthwhile ($700 for your half, minus the $300 you put into it). Then you'd net the required $400 profit.

This example highlights the fact that when you're drawing to half the pot, several situations that may seem like an automatic call aren't really worth it. That's because:

WHEN THE POT WILL BE SPLIT, YOU'RE GETTING LESS THAN
HALF THE NET POT ODDS THAN IF YOU WON THE WHOLE POT

Part of the reason why is because 8 to 1 is really 9 for 1 and half of that is 4-1/2 for 1 which is 3-1/2 to 1. But those proportions get knocked even further out of kilter when you fold at the river if you miss.

Calculating this out at the table is not something you want to mess with during the heat of the hand. What you need at a time like that is a handy short cut to indicate your play. That's what the following table is for. In most situations, your pot odds relative to scooping vs. splitting will usually break down just about like this:

WHEN YOU SCOOP WHEN YOU SPLIT
6 to 12 to 1
8 to 13 to 1
10 to 14 to 1
12 to 15 to 1

As you can see, your "split" odds are less than half your "scoop" odds. For easy reference, notice that you can just cut your "scoop" odds in half and subtract 1 to get your "split" odds. So here's what you can do.

When judging whether to continue on for a split, look at the pot and estimate its probable eventual size. Then say to yourself, "If I could win it all, I'd be getting about 8-to-1 pot odds, therefore I'm getting about 3 to 1 for half. Am I worse than a 3-to-1 dog?" If the answer is yes, fold! If not, call!

Note that the above illustration was hand-massaged to show a holding that had virtually no prospects for low. That was done for the sake of "split pot odds clarity". In situations where there is some reasonable chance for low, you should loosen up in proportion to those chances -- but not too much.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey