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Implied vs. Reverse Implied Odds

This seemingly simple topic might be one of the most misunderstood by beginners in poker. Learning about reverse implied odds was quite eye-opening for me and led to a large improvement in my ability. Most players, even those new to the game, understand what is meant by the term "implied odds". For those who are unaware of this term implied odds is a principle that takes into account not only the money won when calling a bet but money that could be won on future streets of the hand. This is typically the case when we have a draw and are faced with a bet. Calculating how much we can win on later streets will determine if we have the correct implied odds to call on the current street. Reverse implied odds, as the name suggests, are exactly the opposite. Instead of making a call hoping to win more money on future streets, we make a call knowing full well we could lose money later on in the hand.

Being able to pinpoint these situations and navigate them properly will go a long way in improving your winrate and plugging some major leaks. Let’s dive into the types of hands that typically offer players implied odds:

Small-to-medium pocket pairs

Why these are implied odds hands: Small and medium pairs are very simple to play after the flop. Typically we are looking to flop a set (a 3rd of the same card as our pocket pair) and if we do so we will usually play and win a big pot. On the other hand, were we to miss on the flop we are going to fold as soon as we meet resistance and only lose a small pot. Therefore, we either win a big pot or lose a small pot, making these clearly great implied odds hands. The term "set-mining" gets thrown around a lot but it basically refers to calling with one of these small pairs against a player in hopes of hitting a set. The tighter the opponent, the more chances we are to get paid as their PF raising range is going to be quite strong. On the other hand, if our opponent raises a wide range before the flop the chances of them flopping a strong enough hand to stack-off with post-flop when we do hit our set is quite slim.

Suited Aces

Why these are implied odds hands: Suited aces are great in today’s games because players have learned to play their flush draws quite aggressively. Not only can we make the nut flush and win a big pot off of hands such as top pair, overpairs, or even sets, but we can also be fairly confident in stacking off with these hands on the flop. This is because our opponents will not only have strong made hands in their range, but they will also have plenty of worse draws as well.

Suited Connectors

Why these are implied odds hands: much like small pocket pairs, low-to-mid suited connectors can flop very strong hands that are somewhat disguised. Hands like 78s can flop straights, flushes, straight/flush draws, two-pair, etc…and will have a good chance of getting paid off. These hands do not offer as great of implied odds as hands like pocket pairs because they can get players into trouble who are not used to playing draws or even playing flops like 4c 6d 8s when holding a 56s type hand. We’ll dive into this a bit more in the reverse implied odds section.

We will always have greater implied odds when we call with these hands in position instead of out of position. Being in position allows us to always win the maximum when we do hit our hand and helps us to play better postflop in general. We should tend to shy away from these hands from the blinds when aggressive players in late position raise before the flop as they will have wide ranges and have the advantage of being in position after the flop. One of the bigger leaks of newer players is calling with hands like this both when out of position or against a 3bet. Most of the time you are either not getting the correct odds to call to hit or even when you do hit you will not get paid enough to make your PF call profitable.

Now that we’ve identified some implied odds hands we should dive into common reverse implied odds holdings.

A2-AJ off suit

When talking about reverse implied odds hands, these Ax holdings are at the top of the list. The major problem with a hand like A9 is when it flops top pair it is extremely difficult to get action from worse hands and you can be assured you’ll be facing bets from better hands. So how do we avoid these reverse implied odds situations? Well, the easiest way starts before the flop. It is certainly a mistake to call raises with these hands unless we are in position in a blind battle. Otherwise these hands should be folded before the flop and only raised when it is folded to us on the button or in the blinds. The worst Ax hand we should open in the CO is ATo and we can go ahead and open A2o+ on the button, but we will need to proceed with caution post-flop.

If we find ourselves in a post-flop situation where the pot is ballooning and all we hold is top-pair-no-kicker we will have to find the cheapest way out. A lot of times, if I raise a hand like A3o on the button and the Big Blind calls and the flop is Axx, I might check back the flop. This play not only disguises my hand but helps to control the pot. If my opponent happened to flop a better hand he will bet the turn and river and I might be able to fold on the end or call a much smaller bet than had he been able to get three streets of value. This play is also valuable if our flop check allows us to value bet the turn and river against an opponent who reads our check on the flop as weakness. A lot of this depends on our opponent, If you are against a calling station fish then by all means go ahead and bet three streets.

Medium Pairs

While we touched on small-to-medium pairs being solid implied odds hands earlier, we must note hands like 77-TT can be quite difficult to play post-flop when not flopping a set. Unlike the smaller pairs which are easy to get away from, a hand like 99 will be an overpair nearly half the time and most of the time there will be only one over card. This can lead to some interesting post-flop decisions where once again, we will have trouble getting value out of worse hands and our opponents will be able to get value from our hand. Much like the Ax example, we must navigate our way post-flop that allows us to get some value from worse hands all the while keeping the post smaller when we are behind. This is your typical "way ahead, way behind" situation where we are losing the hand and only have two outs, or we have the best hand and our opponent might have 2-5 outs. In these WA/WB spots passive play is normally correct. Once again, if we find ourselves up against a bad player, do not be afraid to get some extra value from your weak made hands.

Being able to identify these reverse implied odds situations and staying away from them can be a big help to your winrate. If you find yourself in these spots after the flop, try your best to control the size of the pot and squeeze 1-2 streets of value out of your hand when they appear to be better than your opponents. As always, knowing as much as you can about your opponent’s games can go a long way in playing these tough spots correctly. Against aggressive, bluff-happy villains, these types of hands are great bluff-catchers. Against passive players who only bet with strong holdings, you should relinquish these hands facing action without second thought. Taking notes and using stats can turn these hands from losers, into big winners.

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