Poker Tips – Expected Value

Expected value is one of the most important and fundamental concepts in poker, yet it is one that many new players find difficult to grasp.  In this article we will try to explain expected value as simply as possible.

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The expected value of a bet is simply the return that you expect to make from it. The simplest model is that of flipping a coin which has a 50% chance of coming down heads or tails. It might have come down heads four times in the row, and so someone bets you £2.00 at 2 to 1 that next time it will come down tails. You accept the bet because your expected value is £0.5 which is calculated by multiplying your odds of winning (0.5) by your winnings (£2.00) and subtracting your chances of losing (0.5) multiplied by the amount you could lose (£1.00).

If you always placed bets with positive expected values, in the long term you would win and the amount you would win would be close to the average expected values of your bets.

In order to win at poker, it is necessary to bet only when you have a positive expected value. Computing expected values during a game is not easy for beginners. There are many poker calculators available that will compute expected values for any hand given at any time of the game, and it is possible to use one of these whilst playing on-line, but this is not permitted by many poker sites.

However, a good way to start to learn about expected value (EV) is with your hole cards in Texas Hold’em and these have been computed for every possible hand and every possible table position. For instance, the best hole cards are two Aces and the EVs of this hand range from 2.71 to 2.96 depending on position. On the other hand, a pair of sixes has negative and positive expected values depending on table position that range from -.0.01 to 0.14.

These EVs can be obtained readily from the internet and it is well worth downloading them and studying them in order to understand why you should bet on certain hole cards and why you should avoid others.

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