What is Equity in Texas Holdem Poker?
Equity, as is used in poker, is applied mathematics and explains the reason why the correct play should be betting, checking, raising or folding in certain situations. It plays a big part in shaping strategies and making various plays or moves at given times. Your equity refers to the amount of the pot that, in a sense, belongs to you when factoring the odds of winning at a particular stage in the hand.
Let me put it in simpler terms by using an example. Let’s say you are dealt big slick, As-Ks, while your opponent is holding Jc-10d. Although you don’t know what your table rival is holding, your probability of winning this hand pre-flop is about 65%. That’s your equity in the hand.
To determine your pot equity, you merely divide the pot total by your probability percentage of winning the hand. Say the pot is $10. Your pot equity is 65% of that, or $6.50.
But during the hand, the equity will be changing as more cards are revealed, and each player’s hand becomes weaker or stronger based on the likelihood or probability of winning. For instance, if the flop came Jh-3c-10h, your opponent now has two pairs entire equity has changed in his favor, giving him a 78% probability of winning the hand, while your equity has drastically been reduced to 22%.
The percentages are derived from computer simulations of every possible situation or scenario to determine the probability of each hand’s likely success of winning. I’m sure you have watched poker on TV where the player’s hole cards are revealed and the favorite or underdog in the hand is listed with the percentage or probability of winning shown on the screen next to the players’ cards and name. That is the equity. There are several websites on the Internet that will allow you to download an Odds Calculator to determine the equity of each hand in various situations.
How to Use It
Now you are probably wondering how to use this information to your advantage at the poker table. Although you will not know what cards your opponent is holding, you can often make an educated guess based on betting styles and patterns. And the principle of determining your equity in the pot at every stage of the hand can go a long way toward explaining why you should be betting when you likely have the best hand. Holding the best hand means that your bets will have greater value because the majority of that particular hand’s equity belongs to you.
Let’s go back to the example where your opponent has just flopped two pairs and your equity dropped to 22% post-flop. Having two pairs (that you don’t know), he makes a good-sized bet, and you call with your big slick because you have ten outs that you think will give you a winning hand. Three outs for each Ace remaining and 3 for each King that would give you the top pair as far as you know, and four more outs to hit a Queen that would give you a straight.
Let’s say a Queen did come up on the turn for the Ace-high straight. Your equity has just jumped from 22% to 91%, and the only way you can lose is if Mr. Two Pair catches a Jack or 10 on the river for a full house.
Based on the 91% equity, over the long run in such situations, you will make 91 cents for every dollar that you put into the pot. That is why it is crucial that if your equity is higher than 50%, your goal is to get as much money as possible in the pot from your opponent because, at this stage, 91% of it is yours.
That is value betting and is one of the main reasons why aggressive players are more profitable than passive players because they are getting more dollars into the pot when they have the greatest likelihood of winning the hand.
This is also why you should be raising pre-flop with an excellent starting hand. Because at that stage of the hand, you have the greatest equity or probability of winning. A pre-flop raise also serves the purpose of knocking players out of the hand who were hoping to limp in or call a small bet with a decent drawing hand and change the equity to their favor along the way based on the flop, turn and river cards.
Equity in poker is the most basic of principles that explain why your strategy should include betting when you’re holding the best hand. Doing so allows you to bet for value to increase the money that you will win when the equity is over 50% and in your favor.
In a similar vein, checking and folding when the hand’s equity is leaning more heavily toward an opponent can help you to keep from losing a lot of money.
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