Poker Equity

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Published: 28/12/2010

Two interrelated but quite different concepts related to Poker mathematics are “Expected Value” (EV) and “Poker Equity.” The former is perhaps the better understood and more widely used of the two. It refers to the price of playing associated with a hand. Hands that may cost a player money have a negative expected value (-EV), while those that are likely to win the player money have a positive expected value (+EV).

When it comes to Poker Equity, the probability of winning or losing is also measured, but it is done so without regard to the size of the pot or the expense of playing the hand. Instead, Poker Equity is simply a measure of the likelihood of winning or losing a pot. It can be thought of as the “chance of winning” expressed as a percentage, where 100% means the hand is a lock and 0% means it is dead.

Another way to think of Poker Equity is as the amount of the pot that “belongs” to each player, based upon the odds of each of them winning at any particular point in the hand. No matter how many hands are playing for a pot, the sum of their individual Poker equities must be 100%. Software known as a Poker Odds Calculator can be used to determine these percentages exactly.

Calculating Poker Equity

If it were possible to see every player’s hand, it would be possible to calculate with certainty what the Poker Equity is for each of them. The starting hands could be input into the odds calculator along with whatever cards come down on the flop, turn and river. At every stage, the calculator would precisely indicate the odds of winning for each, rather like the percentages shown for each hand in a televised game where all hands are known to the audience.

In real play, of course, it is not possible to know exactly what cards are held by opponents. That’s why players rely on “ranges” to make the calculation. The highest and lowest suspected starting hands can be used to calculate each player’s probability of winning.

For example, Player A holding a pair of pocket Queens might have two other opponents going into the flop. One of them, Player B, is known to be tight and can be put on a range of no lower than a pair of sevens, suited face cards, or an unsuited A-K. The other opponent, Player C, is an unknown, so the range is noted as “random.”

The odds calculator evaluates all of the possibilities for each hand and outputs their respective Poker equities. Pre-flop, Player A would have a 45.903% chance of winning; Player B’s odds would be 33.852%; and Player C would have a 20.245% probability of success. As soon as the flop comes down, these percentages will shift up or down, according to the affect on each hand.

Applying Poker Equity

Players who calculate Poker Equity can use it to make decisions. It is especially powerful when considered in conjunction with other criteria, such as pot odds. By and large, situations when pot odds are greater than Poker Equity will be profitable in the long run, while pot odds that are lower will be less so. Again, this relates to the concept of Expected Value.

When playing limit versions of Poker, such as Pot Limit Texas Hold’em, Poker Equity is virtually equal to Expected Value. However, in No Limit versions of the game, the two can vary greatly. That’s because betting and raising for value can have a huge impact on the pot odds, driving the EV up, even though the chances of the hand winning will remain unchanged.

It is not possible to win money without winning pots. That is why understanding Poker Equity is important. On the other hand, it is possible to win pots and still lose money, which explains why simply knowing Poker Equity is insufficient and understanding Expected Value is necessary. The two go hand in hand.

Published on: 28/12/2010

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