EV (expected value) in Poker
Expected value is your expected long-term return on a bet, whether it’s in poker or in some other form of gambling. To begin with, we can use a simple coin flip as an example – you make a bet with a friend that if the coin lands on heads you get $50, and if it lands on tails your friend gets $10.
This is a great bet for you because of the long-term expected value. There is a 50% chance of the coin landing on heads, which means your expected win is $25 (0.50 * $50). Your expected loss on the other hand is only $5 (0.50 * $10). Your expected value on the bet is your expected win minus your expected loss – in this case $15.
Of course, you won’t win $15 on a single coin tosss you will win $25 or lose $10, but in the long run, if you make lots of bets like this one, your winnings will be around $15 per bet. Outcomes in gambling are influenced by chance in the short run, but over time, your outcomes will reflect your expected value very closely. If you can convince your friend to take the same bet 10,000 times your profit would be close to $150,000.
So, how should you include the expected value theory in your Texas Holdem strategy? It’s pretty easy: in a poker game you should always consider the expected value before making a decision in a specific situation. You should ask yourself: Is this play profitable in the long run or not?
This of course applies when you are playing a drawing hand like a flush draw or a straight draw. In these cases you can calculate the pot odds (this goes for both Texas Holdem odds and other forms of poker) to find out if you have a positive or negative expected value. If you, for example, have a flush draw (giving you about 30% chance of winning the hand), you need pot odds of at least 3 to 1 to have a positive expected value.
In other cases, like when you are making a bluff, you have to make approximations regarding your chances of winning to find out your expected value. For example, if you make $20 bluff into a $100 pot, you need the bluff to be successful one in five times to have a positive expected value. Consequently, if you think your opponents will fold to your bluff at least 20% of the time, you should make the bet.