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Poker Value Terms

Hand Value - Value Bet - Expected Value

by Jesse Knight
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Expected Value
Value -
1. The amount of return you get on your investment.
2. The strength of a hand.
3. A type of bet.


“Value” is sometimes used in short for the term expected value. Your expected value for a given situation is basically the average return on investment that you can expect to receive over the long run for a given situation. If you were to calculate it, you would do so by calculating the return (whether it would be positive or negative) for every possible future outcome, multiplying it by its probability of occurrence, and adding up the results. The more possible outcomes there are, the more complicated and difficult this process becomes.

If you want to have success in a poker game, or in gambling in general, you must learn to accurately calculate expected value. That is how you evaluate what your long return is likely to be. When you play poker, you are essentially making a series of investments. As any good investor will tell you, you should do a risk/reward analysis prior to making any investment. This is essentially what you are doing when you calculate expected value. You are considering all possible outcomes, how each affects your bottom line, and the probability of each occurring.

In a poker game, the value of a given situation is often considered in the context of “hand strength.” Hand strength is a measurement of how well your hand will perform on average, relative to the hands of your opponents. This performance will depend partially on the content of the hands in play, and partially on how well each hand is actually played. Given this, if a player can return a profit over the long run, their hand is said to have value. If a player’s hand is not strong enough to return a profit over the long run, the hand is said to have either no value (in the case of a break even situation), or negative value (in the case of a situation which results in a loss over the long run).

It is important to remember that when you are calculating whether a hand has any value, you have to use inputs which reflect the current situation. You may know that when you flop a flush draw, you can expect to complete it roughly 40% of the time by the river. This piece of knowledge may have been very useful in calculating the value of your hand on the flop, but it is not very helpful for making a value calculation on the turn. Two frequently used tools for calculating value are pot odds analysis an implied odds analysis, which are commonly referred to as “pot odds” and “implied odds,” respectively.

Another poker term you will frequently encounter is “value bet.” A value bet is a marginally profitable bet, made in an attempt to extract maximum value from a situation. This is somewhat of an advanced concept. Many inexperienced players will bet when they have a strong hand, and they will sometimes bluff, but they typically check if they are unsure about whether there is any value in betting. The problem with this strategy is that no matter how well you read poker situations, you will be unsure about where you stand in the hand quite often. Sometimes, when you are unsure about your hand, you will not have any value. When this is the case, checking is a good idea. At other times when you are unsure about your hand, small amounts of value may indeed exist. If this is the case, and you fail to bet, you forgo that small amount of value which you would have recovered had you bet. That translates into lost profits. Advanced players will actively look for these spots and will always bet if they think there is any long run profitability in it, no matter how slight. This skill is especially critical for pot limit and no limit players. This is because in these games, you are deciding not only on whether or not to bet, but on how much to bet as well. In order to extract maximum profit in these games, you must bet the correct amount. Bets of too little or too much will yield a less than optimum long term result.

Also keep in mind that when you get a reputation for making value bets, players are likely to call you with less powerful hands. Even if you are sometimes wrong (and you will be) about the value of a hand, and bet when you have no value, it may add value to your image. As the old axiom goes, you have to give action to get action.

Usage: Made a value bet, No value in betting, My hand has no value, Calculated my expected value.


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