Expected Value – The MOST IMPORTANT Concept in Poker
If you picked one poker concept to master over everything else, it should be expected value or EV. In fact, our primary goal with poker is to maximize our EV with every decision we make.
Every situation: pre-flop or post-flop, with initiative or without, single-raised pots, 4-bet pots. They all present you with decisions of whether to check, bet, fold, call, or raise. If you bet or raise, you have the option of betting small, medium, large, or all-in. All of these options have a value associated with them.
Learning how to calculate EV for these different scenarios is something every serious poker player must do. If you feel rusty in this area, I provide an EV cheat sheet with instructions and examples in my river play video.
On a related note, I had a twitch stream a while back where a viewer posed a seemingly simple question about re-raising hands like AQ and TT. He asked if I avoid “gambling”. In the video, I stated my thoughts on the idea of gambling, but then I also touched on this idea of expected value and how it plays into our decisions.
We pick up 97o on the button facing a fish limping UTG. This hand falls in that: not strong enough to isolate but to strong to fold zone. So we take a rare preflop line, we limp behind!
Viewer, greenking999, poses the question: “do you 5bet all in with AQ, AK offsuit, or TT when an opponent is agro? Do you avoid gambling as much as you can?”
To answer this, we must dig deeper into what the viewer means by “gambling”. If gambling is defined as an activity where we expect to lose money in the long run, then yes we do avoid this type of activity!
If gambling is meant as simply an endeavor involving chance, then all of poker is gambling and of course we are not avoiding it. In fact you might argue by this definition that LIFE is gambling. 🙂
Most likely though the viewer means high variance situations, perhaps where the decision is close. The answer then is no, we do not avoid poker spots purely because they have high variance or are “risky”.
Our goal in poker is to make profitable decisions regardless of the variance. (The only time variance would matter is if we are putting some significant portion of our entire bank roll at risk.) Even it is high risk, our eyes are on the long run.
This is what is meant by the term +EV. We strive to do things that carry a positive expected value.
Back to the first part of the question, do we get it in with AQ, AK, or TT? It depends. Given what you know of the situation, if you get it in, will it be profitable and +EV? Does your opponent stack off with lots of weaker hands or does he only jam AA & KK?
If you’d like some hints on how to setup these kinds of problems, check out this sample clip from my river play webinar