Published on May 31st, 2006 4:21 pm EST

You like your hand, but you dont love it. It may not be the best one at the table, but depending upon what comes up on the river, it could certainly get there. Theres only one question on your mind--should you stay in or get out?

Answering that question is a key to successful poker and one of the tools that makes it possible to come up with a good answer an understanding of pot odds and how to use them.

Put simply, pot odds represent a ratio of the money already in the post relative to how much a player would need to bet in order to stay in the action. Lets look at an example:

In a hypothetical hand of Hold Em, there is $100 in the pot. In order for you to stay in the hand, a $10 bet is required. The ratio, or odds, are 100:10 or, simplified, 10:1. That example demonstrates exactly how to calculate pot odds. One simply compares the total in the pot to what its going to cost to see that next card.

That simple calculation, in a vacuum, may not mean a great deal. What difference does it really make if the pot odds are 2:1, 10:1, or 20:1? The answer to that question shows the difference between simply understand what pot odds are and how you can actually use them to your benefit.

Lets return to our hypothetical table and play another hand. This time, you are one diamond away from a flush with the river on the way. You clearly dont have the winning hand now, but you can be relatively certain you will have it if another diamond shows up. The pot contains around $240. Its going to cost you $30 to see the river card. Is it worth it?

Well, by combining your understanding of poker odds with an ability to calculate pot odds, you can make a wise decision. Pot odds are 8:1 (240:30). So long as the odds of you pulling getting that last diamond are better than 8:1, the play makes sense. In this case, it would make perfect sense to shove that $30 into the pot and to hope you make your flush.

Other factors may influence your decision in various situations, but a firm grasp of pot odds and how to use them can add a profitable dimension to your game. Using pot odds can provide you with essential data to help answer the recurring question of whether or not you should stay in or get out.