Friday, November 13, 2009

Equity in a pot / thoughts on expected value

Due to October's results, I have really begun to think about winning poker pots in a different light. I had a conversation with a friend the other day- one who has continually experienced all- around bad luck at live poker. He and I were talking about how when you get AA vs. KK all in pre-flop, it just sucks when inevitably, the King hits the flop and you're drawing thin and lose the pot. I've had similar circumstances happen to me *A LOT* in October- where my actual return for pots that I was all in, was far lower than expected value. (A quick tutorial on expected value: EV is the long term value of the hand you hold; i.e. if you have 80% equity in a pot, then you can expect to win $80 for every $100 pot if you ran the exact same cards against each other an infinite number of times.) I can certainly commiserate with him; for a player seeing limited hands like that of live poker, and a limited bankroll, these results can be devastating. Fortunately for me, I do not have said limited bankroll; I follow [in my opinion] proper bankroll strategy.

In theory, unless you are drawing completely dead, everyone has equity in a pot. In other words, if I get it all in with AA vs. 65 on a 6 9 T board, the villain has about 20% equity (5 outs to the two pair / trips) + maybe 2% to tie with running straight cards. Therefore, the way I have begun thinking about winning or losing pots is how much of that pot was theoretically mine; i.e. if at the point of all in, the pot was worth $100, $78 of that money is mine and $20 is the villain's. My friend was quick to point out that "theoretical wins don't pay the bills," which is true, but I do believe that over an infinite hands (which is the amount of hands I intend to play), the statistical norms will be met, and the theoretical wins will become real $78 wins.

I guess what I'm touching upon is Karma - basically what goes around, comes around. When I get a bad beat, or a statistically improbably beat, the "old me" used to tilt like crazy - becoming hyper aggressive for every hand no matter my holdings. I essentially took my frustrations out on my bankroll - making a theoretical $78 / real $100 (in the example above) loss into a MUCH bigger loss because now I'm misplaying hands. However, if the month of October taught me one thing, it is that I no longer get upset. I simply email the hand out to some friends who probably care at an arm's length because they, too, can sympathize but have their own problems with the same type of suckouts. Now, though, I realize that there will be a whipsaw in the end, and I too, when needed, will catch a 2 outter to save my stack at the table - OR, perhaps, I will win 2 more coin flips than I rightfully should (either end of AK vs. pocket pairs). And you know what? To answer my friends comment: I'm not playing poker to "pay the bills," - neither is he. It's not fun to catch a bad beat; it's not fun to be card dead the whole night except for the only time you look down and see a pair of red Aces... but you'll get it back in the end.

In closing, I can take all the bad beats that poker and / or bad Karma manages to dole out. I know that in the end, with every theoretical dollar owed to me, Karma will catch me up to even and [hopefully] then some.

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