How to us Expected Value in Texas Holdem Poker
Any situation that confronts you on the poker table will have an expected value. Whether or not you check, bet, call, raise or fold, there is a value placed on each action before the decision that you make. Successful poker players always try to make a move or play that will obtain the greatest expected value. In other words, to get the most return on a particular bet or wager.
Expected value is the average amount of money you stand to win or lose on your bet. If you can always make the correct plays according to the expected value of each decision, you will win the greatest amount of money possible during each session of play.
Explaining Expected Value
Every decision made on the felt can be categorized as positive expected value (+EV) or negative expected value (-EV). In other words, +EV decisions will make money, while -EV decisions will lose it over the long run. Expected value is calculated by multiplying the results of all the possible outcomes of a situation by the probability or likelihood of it happening, followed by adding them all together.
Coin Flip Example
The simplest way to explain EV is a coin flip example. If you and your friend are wagering $1 on the flip of a coin with you winning each time it lands on heads and losing on every tail, the bet is a neutral EV because the odds give you a 50% chance of winning on every flip.
Let’s say your friend is in a sporting mood and agrees to give you $2 for every flip that lands on heads. This is now a +EV because even though you will still win 50% of the coin flips on average, you will make double the amount as when you lose.
An example at the Poker Table
Although this was a simplified example, it shows that the best plays are those who have a +EV. How this relates to poker is that you want to make bets with a likelihood of a positive expectation and avoid the wagers where the expected value is negative.
Let’s try an example on the poker table. Let’s assume that following the turn card against only one other opponent; you are drawing to a flush, holding Kc-10c, while the board shows Ad-7c-3c-2h. You have about a 20% chance of winning the hand with the river card yet to come. Let’s say the pot is $100 following a $15 bet by the opposing player.
You are wondering whether to make the call for $15. Well, your pot equity is $20, since you have a 20% chance of catching another club on the river. And since it will cost you only $15 to make the call, by doing so you would be making a play with an expected value of +$5. So, yes, this is a profitable call to make because over the long haul you will win money.
Making more +EV plays at higher values than -EV plays will render you a successful poker player.
Expected value is a bit more detailed than working out pot odds that can be done instantaneously to determine the profitability of various decisions. There just is not enough time to calculate EV on every situation or play that confronts you. However, it is important to understand the concept of expected value to help improve your game.
Using expected value in analyzing your play following a playing session by studying hand histories is very beneficial in determining whether the plays you made had positive or negative expected value. Also, the EV concept helps explain why certain plays may be good and others are bad.
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