Most people have a pretty good understanding of pot odds – whether the amount of chips in the pot justifies making a call – but they fail to realize that making this calculation only solves part of the poker equation. Often, these players forget to think about how the rest of the hand is going to play out if they make a call, and fail to factor that information into their calculations. That's where implied odds come into effect.
Suppose you have 7-8 of diamonds on the turn, and there are two diamonds on the board. There are 1,000 chips in the pot and your opponent bets 500. You're almost certain your opponent has top pair and isn't on a diamond draw, so catching a seven or eight just won't cut it. That leaves nine outs to your flush draw – you need pot odds of about 4 to 1 to make a call, but you're only getting 3 to 1.
Now, if your opponent has a lot more chips left in front of him and you think he'll pay you of if you hit your hand, implied odds will come into play. Say your opponent will pay off at least the pot – 1,500 chips in this case – when you make your hand. You're calling 500 to make 3,000, implied odds of 6 to 1. That's more than enough to justify trying to suck out on him.
While your total implied odds may be larger if you're playing a Pot-Limit or No-Limit game, the concept of implied odds is often more relevant in Limit poker where you can usually determine how likely you are to get your opponent to call an extra bet or two on the river. In Pot-Limit and No-Limit games you often have no idea of how much bigger the pot could get or if your opponent will even bet at all.
Like all poker games, your implied odds in any hand are also strongly influenced by your opponent in the hand. Is he loose? Tight? Will he call a bet on the river with top pair and a weak kicker or second pair? You need to use your knowledge of your opponent's style to help determine what your potential pay-off for the hand may be. You're going to have to take a guess as to how many chips your opponent will be willing to commit to the hand, but you can make an educated guess based on your past experiences with that player.
Implied odds are much more complicated to figure out than pot odds. You're not only thinking about what hand you have at the moment and what your odds are, you're thinking about how the hand is going to play out in the future on all fronts. That's the difference between implied odds and pot odds. When you figure it out, it's a very powerful concept.
The more you're thinking about implied odds and the future of a hand, the more you're thinking like a pro.