Expected value, or EV for short, is a fundamental concept in poker that every player should understand. Simply put, it is a way to calculate the average outcome of a particular action or decision. By understanding expected value, players can make more informed decisions at the table, and ultimately improve their overall win rate.
To calculate expected value, you need to take into account the probability of each potential outcome and the corresponding payoff. For example, let's say you are in a cash game and are considering calling a $10 bet with a flush draw on the flop. You have 9 outs (cards that will complete your flush) and there are 47 unseen cards remaining in the deck. The probability of hitting your flush on the turn is 9/47, or about 19%. If you hit your flush, you will win $30 from your opponent. So, the expected value of calling the $10 bet is (0.19)($30) - ($10) = $1.40. In other words, on average, you will make $1.40 for every time you make this call.
It's important to note that expected value is not the same as the actual outcome of a particular hand. For example, just because the EV of calling that $10 bet is $1.40, it doesn't mean that you will always win $1.40 or even win at all, you may lose the hand and the $10 you put in the pot. However, in the long run, if you make the same decision repeatedly, the expected value will be the average outcome.
Expected value can also be applied to other situations in poker, such as raising or folding. For example, if you are considering raising with pocket aces preflop, the EV would be calculated by taking into account the probability of winning the pot without a showdown and the amount of money you will win, compared to the probability of losing and the amount of money you will lose.
EV also plays a critical role in game theory optimal (GTO) strategy. GTO is a way of playing poker that takes into account the actions and reactions of all players at the table, and aims to exploit any inefficiencies in their play. By understanding EV, players can adjust their strategy to maximize their expected value in any given situation.
However, it's important to note that EV is not always the only or even the most important factor to consider when making a decision at the poker table. There are many other factors that come into play, such as the skill level of your opponents, your table image, and your overall comfort level with a particular play.
In addition, while calculating EV can be helpful, it's not always easy or straightforward, especially in live games where the information is not always available. It is important to be aware of the limitations of EV and use it as a guide rather than a strict rule.
In conclusion, expected value is a powerful concept in poker that can help players make more informed decisions and ultimately improve their win rate. By understanding EV and taking it into account when making plays, players can adjust their strategy to maximize their expected value in any given situation. However, it's important to remember that EV is not the only factor to consider and to be aware of its limitations.