Poker Expected Value | Expected Value In Poker & How Its Calculated

Poker Expected Value | Expected Value In Poker & How Its Calculated

Poker Expected Value

In poker, we often talk about something called Poker EV, which stands for expected value. Poker expected value is a mathematical idea that’s super important in poker. When we say a play is +EV, it simply means that the move is expected to bring in profits over the long haul. On the flip side, a play that’s -EV is likely to make us lose money in the long run. So, it’s like predicting whether a player will be a money-maker or a money-loser!

If you don’t really get what EV is all about and can’t make moves that are expected to be profitable (+EV plays), your poker game might be heading towards failure. It’s like having a strong foundation – without it, success becomes quite a challenge.

What Does +EV Mean?

As mentioned earlier, EV stands for expected value. It’s the math way of saying, “in the long run, this move is predicted to earn me a certain amount of money.” If you’ve come across +EV or -EV, they simply indicate whether a strategy is likely to gain or lose money over time.


+EV indicates that a move is profitable and will make money for us in the long run.


-EV means that a move is expected to result in a financial loss over the long term.

How Do You Calculate Expected Value in Poker?

Your aim in poker should always be to consistently make moves that are +EV. Since EV involves math, there’s a formula, but don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. Here’s one of the simpler EV equations used in poker:

EV = (%W x ₹W) − (%L x ₹L)

Let’s simplify the poker expected value formula. We have %W, indicating how frequently we expect to win a particular hand. Then there’s ₹W, representing the amount we win when we do succeed. %L shows how often we anticipate losing the hand, and finally, ₹L indicates the amount we lose when the hand doesn’t go our way.

Understanding +EV and -EV in Poker

When you’re playing poker, it’s crucial to grasp the concepts of +EV and -EV. If the chances of winning are higher than losing, you’re in a +EV situation – meaning you might end up with more money. On the flip side, if the risk of losing outweighs the potential win, it’s a -EV move. In this case, it’s advisable to fold because the expected value is negative.

Sometimes, there are exceptions. For instance, if your opponent has a short stack and seems eager to leave the poker game, they might take more risks than usual. Other factors, like being tilted or mentally compromised, can also influence their decisions. So, in these special circumstances, you might find reasons to make a different move.

Simple Examples of Poker Expected Value (EV)

Let’s picture a fair coin – one side heads, one side tails. Now, when we flip it, if it lands on heads, A owes B ₹30; if it lands on tails, B owes A ₹10.

Now, let’s dive into the EV formula. When A wins, they get ₹30, so ₹W = ₹30. When B wins, A loses ₹10, so ₹L = ₹10. Since it’s a fair coin, there’s a 50% chance for heads and a 50% chance for tails. So, both W% and L% are 50%. A neat trick is that %W + %L always adds up to 100%, meaning if you know one, you know the other.

Now, let’s crunch the numbers – ₹1.5 – ₹0.5 equals +₹1. In the long run, you’re expected to win ₹1 each time we flip the coin. Even if we only flip it twice, the outcomes could be +₹6, +₹2, or -₹2, showing short-term results differing from the +₹1 expected value. But flip the coin millions of times, and you’ll average a ₹1 profit each time.

In poker, we keep our eyes on the long run, not the short term. Small samples may bring varied results, but over time, the math aligns everything with its expected value. Two key takeaways:

  1. Seek out games like this with a positive EV.
  2. Steer clear of games where the EV is negative.

What Is Considered a Good Expected Value in Poker?

In poker, a good EV, or positive expected value, refers to a decision that proves to be profitable in the long run. When a decision consistently yields positive outcomes across numerous instances, it is considered +EV, even if individual instances may show temporary negative results.

Take, for instance, the preflop scenario with pocket aces in Texas Hold’em. Pocket aces are the strongest starting hand and have a high likelihood of winning, especially in a one-on-one situation where they win 85% of the time. Even in a table with multiple players, pocket aces maintain a positive equity of 35%. This consistent advantage over a large number of hands demonstrates positive EV.

It’s important to note that, occasionally, pocket aces might lose, but the key is long-term profitability. Despite short-term setbacks, the positive expected value of pocket aces, which is over 50%, sets them apart as a strategically sound decision.

Expected Value Vs. Game Theory Optimal (GTO)

In poker, there’s a concept called Game Theory Optimal (GTO) or Optimal play. It’s a modern strategy focused on defence, assuming your opponent might not be making the best moves. Instead of tailoring your strategy to your opponent’s mistakes, you base it on playing the best possible poker against someone who might slip up.

When employing GTO, you observe your opponent’s actions to figure out their hand ranges – the variety of hands they might play in specific situations. Playing optimally involves analyzing their moves and deciding on the most effective strategies against them.

The optimal play in any hand influences the Expected Value (EV). Here’s where GTO and EV intersect, aiming for the most favourable outcome. Combining these strategies gives you an advantage because you’re playing optimally and pursuing positive EV.

Even when optimal analysis indicates a negative EV in a situation, sticking to the GTO method with precision helps. Aligning GTO play with EV provides a more solid answer on how to handle a particular hand or deal with a specific opponent.

Calculating EV is more straightforward in online poker, while optimal plays can be identified faster than EV in live poker. This dual approach enhances your overall poker game, whether online or at a live table.