Expected Value In Holdem Poker

A successful Texas hold em player is one who maximizes his return or minimizes his loss with each decision he makes. Expected value (EV) is essentially the amount one would expect to win or lose if this decision were to be repeated millions of times. (rememer your precalculus "limit as n goes to infinity"??? didn't think so!)

Every poker decision, whether it be to bet, raise, check/call, check/fold, check/raise has an expectation of success or failure. Those that will lose you money in the long run are said to have negative expected value (-EV). Folding always has an expected value of zero. You will never gain or lose money by folding. Folding, though it has an EV of zero, may often be your best decision from an EV perspective.

Let's look at a few examples. Expected value is not always easily calculable, even in limit texas holdem, but every time you play you should try to analyze your decisionmaking with EV in your mind. For instance, you're playing 1/2 and in the small blind with 84o on a flop of K96 rainbow. The small blind checks and only you and a tight player are left. There is three dollars in the pot. Should you bet? You are risking one dollar. Betting has a positive expectation if you can expect the other two to fold more than one in four times. If you try it four times and it succeeds once, you win a three dollar pot and lose your one dollar bet the three other times, making it a 0 EV play. (We're discounting the chance that you are called and catch runner runner or win in some other very unlikely way) Remember, we analyze each decision on its own Expected Value merits. If you are called and catch an 8 on the turn, you must again analyze your decisions based on their likelihood of success or failure in the long run. Poker, and Texas Holdem in particular, is a game of short term variations, but you must continue to make the correct EV decisions and you will be a winner in the long term.