Last time we discussed how the poker ecosystem allows for winning players to thrive and make a living playing cards – thousands of people do so around the world. But how do they do it? What makes the decisions a winning pro makes at the poker table better than what a losing amateur does?
What you need to understand that while it is true that you can’t tell what card is coming next or what your opponent’s holding, you can assign probabilities to each scenario. There are 52 cards in the deck in every hand and the laws of combinatorics apply to them.
Even if you’re as new to the game of poker as one can be, you understand that if you get dealt pocket Kings pre-flop you’re happy and you probably want to raise. Evidently, pocket Kings is a strong holding – but what we mean by that is it’s going to make the best hand a large percentage of the time, a lot more often than for example Jack-ten suited will. To be precise, the two K’s will win 79.51% of the time – that is what we call equity – while J10 – provided they’re of a different suit than either of the Kings – will win 20.13% of the time. The probability of a chopped pot is 0.36%.
A good poker player can make the right call and still lose the pot – the key is to have a good understanding of how much equity they have and put money into the pot accordingly.
Based on the laws of pot odds, if a player puts a smaller percentage of money into the pot than the percentage of time they win they’re going to be profitable over the course of the thousands and thousands of hands they play.
Here’s the pot odds principle broken down.
Let’s say the pot is a $100 on the flop. Then somebody bets $50 into it. Given it’s only you and the better in the pot, you’d have to win it 25% of the time to break even – if you have more than 25% equity, the call is correct. That is because you put in $50 into a pot that is going to be $200.
Let’s say you have exactly 25% equity and you make this call a 100 times. That means that on average you’ll win $200 dollars 25 times, which is $5,000; and over the course of the 100 hands you’ll wager $50 a hundred times – that is also $5,000, exactly break even as we said.
Pot odds and equity are two very crucial concepts in poker that you’re going to have to have on your mind every time you sit at a poker table, live or virtual.