The amount of information available to help you play winning poker has exploded in recent years. For an inexperienced player, the sheer volume of hand charts, conventions on sizing bets, and even just the jargon itself can feel overwhelming. How do you even start without suffering information overload?
In this article, we have brought together a smorgasbord of fundamental poker ideas, short-cuts, and other tricks of the trade to help you get started. The simplest material, such as the rank of poker hands, will be familiar to nearly everyone. For those of you who are very new to poker, our article for poker beginners covers the basics.
As the current article proceeds, you will find increasingly sophisticated poker hacks to simplify your decisions at the table. Think of this article as a one-stop reference manual that will help you hone your poker skills and decisions.
Rank of poker hands
Many poker variants, including the popular no-limit hold’em, share the same rank of hands that determines who wins the pot at showdown. Below we give the complete list of hand rankings in a convenient, downloadable form. If you’re putting together your first poker game with friends, you can print this out for everyone.
Positions at a 6-handed poker table
Now you know what beats what in terms of poker hands, you might also be wondering which hands you can play at all. It turns out that the “range” of hands you play depends on your position at the poker table. Specifically, where you sit relative to the “blinds.”
Most no-limit hold’em games require two players to post blind bets before the cards are dealt. The small blind (SB), is typically half the size of the big blind (BB). These two positions give us the starting point for the naming convention at a 6-handed table, as shown below.
The first person to act at such a table is to the left of the big blind, or “under the gun” (UTG). The remaining positions are usually called “middle position” (MP), the cut-off (CO), and the “button” (BU). The last name reflects the fact that in casino poker, as well as online poker, a small disk called the button is used to identify the player who is the notional dealer. After each hand, this button is pushed one position to the left.
Preflop Poker Hand Charts
The first decision you have when the cards are dealt is whether you should play your hand. Because we have to make this choice every hand, one can argue that it is the most crucial decision in poker. If nobody has entered the pot, nearly all training resources recommend that, if our hand is playable, we should enter the pot with a raise.
But how do we decide if a hand is playable? It turns out that one critical factor is your position at the table. If you are UTG in the image from the previous section, the entire rest of the table acts after you. One consequence is that from UTG you must play the fewest hands. As you move to later positions, you can play more hands. What those hands are can be summarized by preflop range charts, such as those shown below for a 6-handed table.
To see all five charts, click the circular buttons at the bottom of the middle image.
These charts are far from the only ones that one might use for making preflop decisions. For example, what do we do if someone has already entered the pot? Do we fold, call or raise? Further, opening ranges for live games that typically play 9-handed require additional positions and have some other variations reflecting tendencies in live play.
Tournaments present another set of potential parameters. Most notably, as a tournament progresses, the blinds increase. This means that a player’s stack, as measured in the number of big blinds it contains, tends to get shallower. Eventually one reaches the “push-fold” regime, where the only realistic options are to shove all-in preflop, or if facing such a shove, to call or fold.
Charts covering all these situations are contained in our CORE and PRO training programs, and many of them are presented in mobile form on the Red Chip Poker GTO Ranges app.
Preflop Raise Sizing
When you enter a pot preflop, it is usually best to do so with an aggressive action. If it is folded to you, then raise. If someone has already come in with a raise, usually reraise (or 3-bet) if your hand is strong enough to play. But how big should these bets be?
The image below shows some standard raise, 3-bet and 4-bet sizes for online play.
Since different games have different blind sizes, the usual way to indicate standard bet sizes preflop is by using a multiple of the big blind. Thus if you are playing an online game with 25c and 50c blinds, the 2.5x open-raise size given in the above graphic means you raise to $1.25.
What are “IP” and “OOP”? These abbreviations stand for “in position” and “out of position.” The concept refers to who acts first postflop. If your opponent is UTG, say, and you are on the button, you are “in position” relative to your opponent. This gives you the advantage of acting after them on every postflop street.
While these raise sizes are standard for online play, in live games you may see much larger open raises. For example 5x the big blind is common, or $10 in an entry-level no-limit hold’em game game with $1 and $2 blinds.
Postflop Bet Sizing
Choosing the size of our bets correctly has been described as one of the most important poker skills. While a description of the factors involved in making that choice is beyond the scope of the current article, the image below provides some bounds on the question, and also defines some more poker jargon.
You will notice that unlike the preflop case where we gave bet sizes in terms of big blinds, postflop bet sizes are conventionally stated as a multiple of the current pot. In many situations, the “correct” bet size is in the range between about one and two thirds of the pot, but there are important situations in which smaller or larger bets are better options.
The reasons for this are quite complex; the Red Chip PRO course on the topic, for example, involves fifteen dedicated videos. But if you’re just starting out playing poker, typically keeping your bets below the size of the pot will be a reasonable starting point.
Some common poker probabilities
A great deal of poker theory is driven by probabilities. This is because poker is fundamentally a betting game, and for a bet to be good, it has to have the right odds. Betting odds and probabilities are two sides of the same coin.
Top professional poker players calculate probabilities while mulling their decisions in a hand. Fortunately for the rest of us, many poker probabilities crop up repeatedly, so that we do not need to do in-game math. Some that you will find useful when playing are given below.
Preflop win probabilities for no-limit hold’em hands
If you have watched any poker on television or on stream, you will be familiar with the “winning hand %” graphic that nearly all such shows include. This number represents the winning probability of each hand or, if you prefer, the percentage of the time each hand would win if the situation was dealt out a huge number of times.
It turns out these probabilities can be calculated by a simulator that does the digital version of that process. In other words, an algorithm that determines the winning hand by simulating a large number of flop, turn and river run-outs. You may be familiar with some of the common hand match-ups shown below.
One important caveat to these win probabilities is that they assume nobody folds before the hand is complete. In practice, it can be difficult to “realize our equity” particularly when OOP. Our opponent can always bluff, thereby potentially forcing us to fold a winning hand. But if you simply consider the match-up between the hole cards of two players, and deal out the flop, turn, and river, the probabilities given in the above table do represent the correct winning chances.
Winning probabilities of poker hands against a range
“This is all very well,” you may be saying, “but I don’t know what hand my opponent is holding. How do these probabilities help?”
Fair point. Typically all we can do is assign our opponent a range. For example, if they open raise from UTG in a 6-max online game, and they seem like a decent player, we might assume they are playing the range for that position in the 6-max chart given earlier in this article.
Against that range, what is the probability a given hand will win if we just dealt out the cards to showdown.
There are free poker tools that address this very question. A popular one is Equilab. This allows us to plug in our hand, and look at its win probability against a range. The image below shows the relevant range on the left. We have entered T♠9♠ as the hand for which the win probability is to be calculated. The result as shown in the image is that T♠9♠ has a 37.2% win probability against this range.
Tools like Equilab can go far beyond even this hand-versus-range calculation, pitting ranges against ranges and handling multiple players contesting the pot. It’s also worth noting that these hand-versus-range probabilities are strategically important. For example, we can usually play our hand more aggressively if we have an equity edge (high winning probability) against our opponent’s range.
Probability of being dealt no-limit hold’em poker hands
Has it been hours since you got dealt a good hand? The probability of getting dealt the very best no-limit hold’em hands is quite low, so it can often feel like an age before you pick up a premium. The following probabilities illustrate why patience is a necessary attribute when playing poker.
|HAND OR RANGE||PROBABILITY OF BEING DEALT|
The “+” symbol in the above table is a standard poker shorthand. 66+, for example, means all the pocket pairs from 66 up to AA. AJ+ means the hands AJ, AQ and AK.
More preflop poker probabilities
Finally you get dealt a premium hand: KK. And you lose the pot to someone with AA! How often do you get dealt a pair, only to have someone else get dealt a bigger pair? As you might imagine, the answer depends on how big your pair is, and how many people you are playing against. The following table gives some probabilities for different scenarios.
|Your Pair||vs. 3 Players||vs. 5 Players||vs. 9 Players|
These numbers suggest running your KK into AA is a somewhat rare event at less than one in twenty, but equally the more poker you play, the more times these spots are bound to occur.
Our two hole cards are merely the starting point of a poker hand. It’s also important to know what kinds of final hands our hole cards might ultimately form. Since the flop represents 60% of the final board, one important parameter is the probability of flopping certain hands and draws. Some examples are given below.
|How Often Will…||X% Of The Time|
|A Pocket Pair Flop A Set Or Better?||12%|
|A Suited Hand Flop A Flush?||1%|
|A Suited Hand Flop A Flush Draw?||11%|
|AK Be Just Ace-High On The Flop?||67%|
|TT Be An Overpair On The Flop?||25%|
|AQ Flop Top Pair?||26%|
|KQ Flop A Gutshot?||13%|
A what shot? The last entry in the above table introduces another bit of common poker jargon. A “gutshot” is a type of straight draw for which there are four cards in the deck that will give you a straight. Thus if you’re holding KQ and the flop comes AT2, there are four jacks in the deck that, if they come out on board, will give you a straight.
The chance of different types of draws completing is another area within poker in which probabilities are of great importance. And it turns out there is a quick-and-easy short-cut that allows you to estimate that probability at the table.
Probability short cuts: the 4/2 rule
We have just noted that a gutshot straight draw is one in which there are four cards that will make you a straight. Another way of phrasing this is to say the gutshot has four “outs” to a straight.
There is another type of straight draw called an “open-ended straight draw” or OESD. If we stick with the example of KQ as our hole cards, but now make the flop JT2, you can see that any A or T will make our straight. In other words, an OESD has eight outs.
There are many other types of draw, perhaps the most important of which is the flush draw. Suppose you hold J♥T♥ and the flop comes 8♥2♦3♥. Now any heart that comes on the turn or river will give you a flush. How many outs is that? There are thirteen cards of each suit in a standard deck, and we have four accounted for. Thus there are 13-4=9 remaining. Nine outs.
One could simply memorize the probabilities that every possible draw will complete, but in practice we have a simple but powerful short-cut: the 4/2 rule. It works like this.
If you flop a draw, the probability of it completing by the river is just the number of outs multiplied by four. Thus our nine-out flush draw on the flop has roughly a 4×9=36% chance of making a flush by the river. If we have the same flush draw on the turn, however, we only have one chance to make it. In this case, the probability we hit our draw is just twice the number of outs, or 18%.
The table below shows some common draws on the flop and turn and their probability of completing, as given by the 4/2 rule.
|DRAW TYPE||# OUTS||ON FLOP||ON TURN|
|FLUSH DRAW + OESD||15||60%||30%|
A couple of important caveats to this rule. First, it is only an approximation. In most cases it is a very good one, but as the number of outs increases it deviates more. For example, the flopped OESD+flush draw (also called a “combo draw”) actually has a 56% chance of completing, rather than the 60% given by the 4/2 rule.
Second, just because you hit your draw does not automatically mean you win the hand. For example, you may make your flush, but if the board pairs an opponent may make a full house or even quads.
Bankroll Management In Poker
One of the most frequent question we get over at the Red Chip Poker Discord server is: “How much of a bankroll do I need to play poker?”
Let’s start by clarifying what this question actually means. As a poker training site, Red Chip aims to help any subscriber become a winner, at least at some stake. Thus most people asking us about bankroll requirements are winning poker players, interested in knowing how much of a financial buffer they need to overcome poker variance.
The point is that even excellent, winning poker players will experience losing streaks. Thus when such players ask about bankroll management and the minimum bankroll they need to play, they are really asking how much money they need to reduce the “risk of ruin” (probability of going bust) to an acceptable level. A detailed discussion of the topic is provided in this article by SplitSuit.
If you are not (yet) a winning player, you do not really have a poker bankroll. Instead you have a poker budget. In other words, your personal circumstances determine how much money you choose to spend on playing poker, much as you might budget for movies or video games.
The following table gives rough guidelines for the amount of money required to play the three most popular forms of no-limit hold’em: cash games, multi-table tournaments (MTTs) and sit-n-goes (SNGs).
|GAME TYPE||# BUY-INS (RECREATIONAL)||# BUY-INS (PROFESSIONAL)|
We should emphasize that these numbers are only rough guidelines, and that many individuals may choose with good reason to deviate from them. More importantly, perhaps, a deeper discussion of this topic would include the dependence of these estimates on a player’s win rate. Essentially, those with a higher win rate can anticipate less severe downswings, thereby reducing the required number of buy-ins to avoid going bust. We return to this idea in the last section of this article.
For recreational players who can replenish their poker bankroll from other sources, such as their day job or ideally a massive trust fund, one can argue whether one really needs a bigger bankroll than the money in our pocket that is dedicated to the current trip to the card room. The question becomes more psychological than financial.
Even for professionals, there are additional considerations that might reduce the fairly conservative guidelines presented above. For example, for large buy-in tournaments, the numbers in the table would exclude all but the wealthiest poker pros from participating at all. This is one reason why staking and “action swapping” are common among tournament professionals.
Finally, there are circumstances in which even a professional poker player may decide to play in a game that would be excluded by the above table by virtue of its high stakes. Indeed, some poker coaches advocate that players should occasionally “take shots” at higher limits. For more on this topic, you may enjoy the video below.
Prime yourself to succeed
As sports psychology has blossomed into a massive industry, players of all kinds of games now recognize that preparation is critical for success. In poker, the idea of playing one’s “A-Game” was first popularized by Tommy Angelo. Sub-standard performance in poker has very real and immediate fiscal consequences, and it is not enough simply to know how to play well. One has to put that knowledge into practice.
A Pre-Session Checklist
Similar to a “pre-shot routine” for a golfer or basketball player, you can increase your chances of playing well through a pre-session checklist. As we emphasize further below, such a checklist should be tailored to the individual goals and personality of the individual employing it. However, one of our subscribers, Daniel L, came up with the following list that we think checks all the right boxes.
by Daniel L
- Are you mentally ready to play your A-game? Are you tired, stressed, anxious or otherwise under par?
- Are you physically ready to play your A-game? Have you been eating well and exercising generally? Have you eaten well today? Are you hydrated?
- Is there anything more important you should be doing instead?
- How long are you able to play for? If you need to leave the card-room at a certain time, have you set an alarm?
- What aspects of your game are you going to work on during the session?
- What one particular new move are you going to try out this session?
- What level are you going to play, how many buy-ins are you willing to play, and what is your current bankroll?
You can get very specific with your own pre-session checklist, accounting for the detailed areas of your mental game that you might be working to improve.
A Preflop Checklist
You went through your pre-session checklist and are thus in the best possible head-space as you sit down at the table. Your cards are dealt to you and you’re ready for action. But how do you proceed to ensure you maintain your A-game?
One approach is to use a checklist at the start of every hand. Here’s an example of a simple one:
- What do you anticipate the other players will do?
- What kind of hand do you have?
- If you open raise, is the pot most likely to go heads up, multiway, or will everyone fold?
- If the pot goes heads up, what will the SPR be (see next section)?
- What is likely to happen postflop?
Rather than explain the importance of those questions in this article, we invite you instead to check out a full discussion of them in this episode of the Red Chip Poker podcast.
Stack-to-pot ratio: When to get all in
In the remainder of this article, we turn to more math-based elements of poker that allow us to simplify our poker decisions. One of the most powerful concepts we can exploit is that of the “stack-to-pot ratio” or SPR.
What the SPR is and how it is calculated can best be explained through a simple example. Suppose we’re playing in a live game with 100bb stacks and it is folded to us in the small blind. We raise to 5bb and the big blind calls. The pot is now 10bb and we each have 95bb left in our stacks.
The SPR is, as the name suggests, simply the ratio of the remaining stack (95bb) to the pot (10bb): that is, SPR = 95bb/10bb = 9.5. If the stacks had been unequal, the SPR is calculated using the shorter stack, since that represents the amount of money that can be put in play during this hand.
Why do we care? It turns out that the value of this flop SPR can be used to determine if the hand we flop is strong enough to get all in. For example, if we have an overpair to the board or a strong top pair, we can usually commit all our chips when the SPR is 3 or below. This is summarized in the following graphic.
One implication of this powerful heuristic is that we should be thinking about the SPR our preflop action is likely to create, particularly in the context of the sort of hand we might expect to flop. For example, with AA, we commonly flop an overpair.
The table below shows some common preflop betting scenarios and the SPRs they produce. The table focuses on preflop action that includes a 3-bet, since these are precisely the scenarios in which the SPR drops to the point where top pair hands can be played for stacks.
There are also hands that prefer high SPRs. Usually referred to as “speculative hands,” these are hands that will require help from the board, but that can turn into real monsters. One example is provided by small pairs. Unimproved, these hands have little chance of winning the pot, but if they spike a set you can commit a lot of chips and expect to win. Such hands thus do better with large SPRs.
Ranges and combos
We introduced the idea of a poker “range” in the preflop section above. Essentially, a range is simply a collection of hands that are played in the same way in a given spot.
In analytical poker, we often use ranges in conjunction with the concept of “combos,” which is short for combinations. Consider a hand like AT. If both cards are of the same suit, we refer to this hand as “Ace-Ten suited” or in short-hand “ATs.” It is a stronger hand than when the two cards are not suited (“Ace-Ten offsuit” or “ATo”).
There are four ways we can hold ATs: A♥T♥, A♣T♣, A♦T♦ and A♠T♠. Thus we say there are four “combos” of ATs. The graphic below shows the different number of combos for different types of hands.
there are 6 combos of any pocket pair
there are 4 combos of any specific suited hand
there are 12 combos of any specific unpaired, unsuited hand
Note that in total, this gives us 12+4=16 combos of any unpaired hand.
Any given range is thus not only made up of specific hands, it also has a specific number of combos. We show a hand range below using another popular piece of poker software known as Flopzilla.
Given this range, we could use the number of combos for each hand type given above to calculate the total number of combos. Fortunately, the software does this for us. As highlighted in the image, this range contains 270 combos. Also highlighted is the fact this number constitutes 20.4% of all possible combos.
Is this information useful? Very much so, as we now explain.
Poker HUDs, Stats and Frequencies
As you get better at poker, one critical skill you will develop is “putting your opponent on a range.” This means you infer from their actions all the likely hole cards they might be holding at any point in the hand. The process begins preflop. If a player enters the pot with a raise, and they seem to have some idea of what they’re doing, you can rule out the possibility they are holding garbage like 83o.
But you can do much better than this, particularly if you’re playing online. Tracking software, which is both legal and standard on many sites, will tell you how often your opponent is entering the pot from the different positions at the table. Such software may incorporate a “heads-up display,” usually referred to as a “HUD,” that displays the key frequencies that characterize an opponent’s play.
To understand why this is so powerful, consider a player who is following the open-raise charts given earlier in this article. Their “Raise First In (RFI)” percentage from UTG will be 17.9%. On its own, this percentage does not tell you definitively what your opponent’s range is; one can develop different ranges that contain the same number of combos and thus the same percentage form. But having such numbers is a massive step to constraining the range of hands your opponent holds. It is central to a process known as “hand reading,” in which we inform our decisions by constraining our opponent’s likely range.
All of these frequencies are calculated in the same manner:
Frequency = (Number of times an action is taken)/(Number of opportunities to take that action).
For example, if you have played 100 hands from UTG, and have open-raised 18 times, your RFI as defined above is 18%.
This same calculation can be applied to a huge array of poker actions. One of the more common preflop stats is “VPIP” or “Voluntarily Put (chips) In Pot.” If you find a player with a large VPIP, you know they are playing too many hands, and thus can conclude they are not great at poker.
When poker is discussed in places like the Red Chip Poker Discord server, stats such as VPIP and many others are often quoted. They provide a concise method of profiling an opponent in a hand. The below table gives some of the common abbreviations along with their full meaning.
|VPIP||VOLUNTARILY PUT IN POT|
|RFI||RAISE FIRST IN|
|ATS||ATTEMPT TO STEAL|
This list is far from complete, but hopefully you can see why these kinds of stats are useful as we attempt to combat our opponent. The Attempt To Steal stat, for example, tells us how frequently a player open raises from late position. Such raises are often made as an attempt to “steal” the blinds, hence the name. If we are in the big blind and face a raise from a player in late position with a high ATS, it indicates they may be raising with a wide range. Depending on our hand, that may make us more likely to call or 3-bet than against a more passive opponent.
If you’re interested in digging deeper into such HUD stats, we invite you to check out this article on the topic.
Poker Pot odds
Another term frequently used in poker discussions is that of “pot odds.” What are they, and why are they useful?
You may have heard players talking about “getting 3:1 on a call” or “facing a shove and getting 1.5:1 on their stack.” These are examples of pot odds expressed as ratios. Pot odds are just a mathematical expression of risk and reward that can then be used to make better plays both preflop and postflop.
Let’s start by understanding what it means when we are getting 3:1 pot odds on a call. Whenever you see this kind of ratio, it is telling you what your reward is for your current risk. The first number is the reward and the second number is what you need to risk.
Consider the situation in which the pot is $80 and your opponent shoves $40 into it. That means we need to risk $40 to call the shove, and our reward is the total pot; the original $80 plus the $40 shove. That means we are getting 120:40, which simplifies down to 3:1.
Now we can take this ratio and turn it into a percentage. We simply take risk/(risk+reward), or in this case $40/($40+$120), to get 25%. This means we need 25% equity (probability of winning) to break even.
If we have less than 25% equity, calling is a losing proposition. This is sometimes referred to as a “–EV call,” where EV stands for “expectation value.” (We’ll have more to say about this shortly.) If we have more than 25% equity it’s an outright +EV call, and we profit by making it.
One important point here that reflects the fact poker is probabilistic in nature. We have just set up an example in which we will make a profit if we call when our equity is more than 25%. Let’s put a specific number on it and say we have 30% equity. If we make the call with such an “equity edge,” we are making a profitable play. And yet the fact we have only 30% equity also means that seven times out of ten (70%) we will actually lose this hand.
There are many situations like this in poker in which calling is profitable, despite the fact we will lose the hand more often than we win. Not only do some players find this counter-intuitive, they also suffer psychologically as a result of it. The thing to remember is that poker is all about the long term. Make +EV decisions, and long term you will profit.
It’s helpful to have some of the most common pot odds memorized, since you will face them often.
|THEY BET FOR||YOUR POT ODDS||YOU WANT AT LEAST|
|Full-Pot||2:1||33% equity to continue|
|2/3rd-Pot||2.5:1||29% equity to continue|
|1/2-Pot||3:1||25% equity to continue|
|1/3rd-Pot||4:1||20% equity to continue|
These numbers are most obviously applicable when you’re facing bets or raises from your opponents. But when you are betting and raising yourself, consider what pot odds you are giving them. Using a smaller size when bluffing means your bluff needs to work less often to be +EV, but the smaller bet also means your opponent is getting better pot odds, and thus may end up continuing more often than you’d like.
Break-even point in poker
In the discussion on pot odds above, we referred to the break-even point. Since this is literally the dividing line between winning and losing, we figured it deserved its own section jsut so you are clear what it is.
Break-even percentage (BE%) is the mathematical way of stating when a bet or raise is outright 0EV; or, if you prefer, EV = 0. If your opponent folds more often than the break-even %, you make an outright profit. If they fold less often than the break-even %, your bluff is outright -EV.
The formula may look familiar to you:
Breakeven % = Risk / (Risk + Reward)
This concept is particularly powerful when bluffing. When this percentage is combined with some basic hand reading, it adds a whole new dimension to your bluffing strategy.
Here is James ‘SplitSuit’ Sweeney to walk you step-by-step through using breakeven percentage:
Since you typically use one of these bet sizes when bluffing, memorizing their respective BE% gives you a great starting point when deciding whether or not to bluff in real-time.
|YOU BLUFF FOR||FORMULA||BREAKEVEN %|
Remember, if you think your opponent would fold more often than the required BE% of your bet, be sure to bluff them. It’s easy money!
The idea of break-even % leads naturally into the concept of fold equity. The fact that we do not need the best hand to win in poker is one of the defining features of the game. We can win if we are the last player in the pot, when everyone else folds. Indeed another central play in poker — the bluff — exists precisely because of this element of the game.
If you would like an in-depth discussion of fold equity, please check out the video below. If you’re in a hurry, we summarize the key takeaways in the text below the video.
Calculating Fold Equity
On a basic level, fold equity can be summarized by the following simple statements:
- If we think it is likely that our opponent will fold to our bet, we have a lot of fold equity.
- If we think it is unlikely that our opponent will fold to our bet, we have little fold equity.
- If we do not think our opponent will fold to our bet, we have no fold equity.
To get fold equity you have to bet or raise. If you are not betting or raising then you are not giving your opponent the opportunity to fold, so you will have no fold equity.
Fold equity is simply a function of the game, since players rarely continue from street-to-street with 100% of their hands. The stronger you are at reading hands, the better you’ll be able to estimate how much fold equity you have in a given situation.
A fold equity calculator allows you to get some extra off-table practice with the concept. Ready to get your hands dirty?
Use the fold equity calculator demonstrated in the video to start to play around with the variables and the math that dictate what decisions are best in certain spots.
Remember, if you spend only five or ten minutes with this tool, you are getting familiar with fold equity on a level few other players do. And because we think by now you ought to be convinced of the value in understanding fold equity, we encourage you to bookmark this page and come back to it in your studies and hand analysis!
EV, short for expected value, is the foundational mathematical concept in poker, and the primary focus of anyone who is profitable in the game over the long term. We introduced earlier in the context of break-even %, but let’s now flesh out that earlier introduction.
The most simple poker expected value (EV) formula is this:
Expected Value = (%W * $W) – (%L * $L)
%W = how often you expect to win this pot
%L = how often you expect to lose this pot
$W = when you win, how much you expect to win
$L = when you do lose, how much you expect to lose
Roughly speaking, your play’s upside minus your play’s downside = your EV.
The video below explains this formula in more detail, and shows you how to use the Red Chip Poker fold equity cacluator.
Variance in poker
To round out this article, we return to the critical idea that results in poker have to be viewed in the long-term.
You will recall the example we gave in which a call in a certain spot was mathematically profitable, even though we figured to lose the hand far more often than we would win it. In the face of such a surprising conclusion, it is all too easy to lose sight of the fact that all we can do at the poker table is make the best decision possible. We cannot control the results of those decisions in the short term
Here is Adam “w34z3l” Jones to develop the concept further:
The truth is that variance has a huge impact on your game, probably bigger than you think. That said, here’s the key to variance: We should take +EV spots no matter what. Variance should not affect our strategy. That is why we use a bankroll while playing, so that we can weather the storm of variance, and not let one or two hands going against us ruin us financially.
For anyone who started playing poker twenty years ago, the amount of information on the game nowadays is quite frankly astonishing. In a single article, we cannot possibly hope to give even an abbreviated overview of what that information includes.
What we have done instead in the above text, formulas, and videos, is to give you some of the most useful poker hacks and short-cuts, while also giving you links to other resources that you can follow if you choose.
The bottom line is that if you wish to improve your poker game, the information and resources are out there. And if you would like some help in navigating that maze, please feel free to drop by the Red Chip Poker Discord server, where our friendly community will be happy to help.