Whatever happened to implied odds?

two cards

two cardsI was playing some low-stakes No-Limit ring games the other day at NL25 to help a friend of mine and I was quite surprised to see how few players actually saw the flop. In a full nine handed game around 20% of players were seeing the flop on average across all the games.

This is a very damning but yet eye opening statistic. When so few players are seeing the flop then this impacts on one very important aspect of the game and that is implied odds. If two out of every three pots are ending up heads-up then hands like small pocket pairs and suited connectors fall in value if you play them in a fit or fold way.

For these hands to be profitable, several key dynamics need to be in place. Firstly, the hand that you are speculating with, needs to be made and with hands like 4c-4d you are around 7.5-1 against to hit your hand on the flop. Hands like suited connectors simply do not complete anywhere near enough to make implied odds sufficient on their own. So, this means that a player can spew quite significant amounts of money per hour in the pursuit of big hands that offer little reward.

So, what exactly does this mean for our poker play in games like No-Limit Hold’em? Let us say that we are playing in a NL50 full ring and we see 4-4 UTG. In years gone by, we could have limped with this hand but when games became much more tight-aggressive the limp was being raised by a single opponent. This then detracts from your implied odds because you firstly have to hit your hand. And secondly, even if you do hit your hand then your opponent needs to pay you off for your play to prove profitable overall.

Finally, you have to survive being outdrawn by your opponent because if you lose with a set then the chances are that you will get stacked by your opponent. These days, you need to be a little cuter in how you play hands like pocket pairs. For example, you could try folding them when in early position because it is simply much tougher to win the pot without making the best hand.

The bottom line in all of this is that implied odds that were so dominant some years ago are not as important as they used to be because of diminishing numbers of players seeing the flop. When this happens, fold equity and dead money increase in importance and this is something that you need to concentrate on.

Implied odds occur as a result of your opponents having a lower overall skill level and more players seeing the flop. Once the average skill level and level of knowledge increase, this tends to knock on to more tight-aggressive play and smaller average pot sizes in games like No-Limit Hold’em.