Poker expectation, roughly put, is the
percentage of profit (or loss) you can expect when you take a seat at ‘x’ table on any given day; regardless of the cards you’re dealt.
For those who have never quite given it much thought, expectation is the long-term gravy, the black gold, or bread & butter that
overrides short-term luck. It either brings in revenue or empties the coffers, depending on a large range of factors such as your skill
(and that of your opponents), structure of the game you’re playing, and seemingly trivial influences such as physical comfort and
When it comes to evaluating poker expectation, many players seek out incorrect or inappropriate guidelines instead of focusing on the current
situation. By understanding the short-term importance of expectation, we can concentrate on what really matters – The Here & Now. But
this requires a slight change in many peoples’ philosophy when it comes to using past results to gauge future earnings. So let’s take a
glimpse at current expectation, and how it should take precedent over all other indicators.
The first leap of faith that must be taken is to realize that ALL (and I mean ALL) poker players are going to eventually find themselves
in a game where their expectation is negative. One very common form of this example is taking a successful low buy-in player and placing
him/her in a high-stakes game that makes his/her short-term expectation negative. You could also reverse this situation and put a top
high-stakes player in an insignificant stakes game; and observe a true digression of poker skills in many cases. However, in order to
understand just how important short-term changes in poker expectation are, we need to be practical instead of technical.
Although most players don’t consider it much, expectation can drastically change at the turn of a card; with the most-common form of
this phenomenon being defined as “Tilt”. A winning player can go from dominating a game to feeding it within a few seconds, regardless
of what the “long-term” numbers show. But there are more subtle factors than steaming that change the texture of any given game we’re
No matter how great an individual’s skills are - one should be in constant vigilance of influences that can affect the bottom line; such
as physical health, personal problems, distractions, lack of confidence, etc. If you’re simply not in the mood to play right now, then
the best (and most-profitable) option is most-likely NOT playing. Taking a seat at a game while on a short-fuse or with a low-tolerance
level can lead to disaster.
One of the most costly traps a winning poker player can step into is using long-term profit to justify playing in a negative-expectation
game or situation. Many players use the long-term numbers from their personal spreadsheet or poker tracking software to persuade them to
play poker, even when they have no business at the tables. Just because you’ve averaged a profit of 2 Big Bets per hour over the past
two years doesn’t mean you should use that number to measure your potential earnings for today’s session. Your actual poker expectation for
today could be much higher or lower, depending on your personal disposition, table selection, and bankroll (among other things).
Making use of your ‘A’ game, paying attention, and exercising self-control are mandatory in order to maximize expectation at the tables.
There will be times when you should continue to play in a session although you’re down – and other times when you should leave the game
even though you’re ahead. Knowing how to gauge your short-term mood and circumstance is a key element to increasing your long-term edge.
Keeping an eye on your opponents’ tendencies can also help a player increase his/her advantage. But if there ever comes a time when
you’re uncomfortable playing against certain opponents at your table (due to unpredictability, intimidation or other factors), then the
wisest step to take is to leave the table. After all, there’s no shame in making a judgment-based decision to leave a game… the shame
comes in egotistically ignoring/denying the facts and disregarding common sense (and losing money because of it).
Through prudence and experience, a player will be able to detect shortcomings in his/her game with much more accuracy. Recognizing how a
player’s expectation constantly fluctuates from session to session, even hand to hand (regardless of the cards), can provide us with a
useful tool for maintaining focus and maximizing profit. In other words, play your best poker right now, and let the numbers take care