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Poker Expectations

Poker Expectation

Recognizing Short-Term Changes

by David Huber
How to Figure out Poker Expectation

Expected Value

Poker ExpectationPoker 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 health.

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 seated at.

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 of themselves.

Poker Positive Expectation

Other strategy articles by David Huber:
Multi-Table Poker Tournament Strategy
Poker Mistakes - Learning Curve of Poker
Poker Luck - It's Bad Luck to be Superstitious
Changing Gears When Playing Poker
Making Money Playing Poker Online
Texas Hold em Basics
Online Poker Forums
Advanced Players, Beginner Players

Short Term EV

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(c) Shirley Rosario

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