Poker Expected Value (EV)

So we have 2 cards in our hand, 3 cards are lying comfortably on the table, its our turn to bet and we want to decide what we should do.

What options do we have? well, we got two:

1. we can check

2. we can bet

Two options is not many options, but still… how do we decide?


“Everything in life needs a measuring stick, some basic formula for doing that thing and in poker the formula is ev.”


Poker Expected Value

Poker expected value describes the long term average outcome of a given scenario in poker. A scenario can be a full hand, a given street like the flop or turn, or a set of hands that you analyse after the fact to determine if your overall play for a given scenario in poker is +ev  then it means that your play in this specific scenario will create profit for you in the long run.

How to calculate expected value

Now before we dive any deeper into this, let us stress that calculating expected value is NOT an exact science for two big, sensible, reasons:

  1. you don’t know what cards your opponent has
  2. you’re human

So how do we calculate expected value? 

In order to calculate your expected value in poker we have to take few things into account:

  1. Our pot odds
  2. Our opponent’s range of cards (more on ranges)

Once we’ve come to a conclusion about these two we simply compare them: Is my chance to win against my opponent’s range of hands greater than the odds I’m getting? yes? great! shovel it in!

As you gain experience in poker you’ll be get better at narrowing your opponents range of cards and you’ll be able to estimate the % of time your hand wins against his range.

A great way to get experience analyzing ranges is with pokerstove

Example of expected value calculation:

You have TT

Flop is J73

Turn is a 2

River is 9

and the pot is $1.

You now have the second best pair, your opponent bets 50 cents, now what is your expected value?

Well, after adding our opponent’s bet the pot is now $1.5 and we have to put in 50 cents to call.

Now, for the sake of simplicity let’s assume that we are 50-50 with our opponent’s range of hands, meaning that at the time we make our decision we believe that half of the time we will win and half of the time we will lose to his hand.

our loss: .5  *.5 =  -.25

our win: 1.5 * .5 = +.75

So if we are 50-50 with our opponent’s range we stand to gain a cool 50 cents off this call every time we make it.

Now expected value calculations can get complicated, try to make your life easier when approaching this and make sure you focus on the right question: what’s in his range. Once you gain a firm understanding of ranges everything else will be a breeze!

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