Poker Math for Dummies : The ultimate guide to Professional Poker
Hi all, I am sure most of you understand what is explained here but there are a few newbies who don't and hence I am explaining the topic not in the language of maths with number but in easy to understand way of yes or no and why?
1. Understanding hand strength:
I see a lot of newbies shoving and calling an all in with KQ and KJ and QJ in the beginning of the tournament and mostly losing and once in a while winning. Sometimes even after not hitting the flop they shove or call all-in. Guys, These are marginal hands and any ace high or any pair is better than these hands. If nothing hits the board, they win and if you and them both hit the board, they win. You have to be lucky to hit the board when they don't to win. Clearly, as you win only in one of the three possible scenarios, you are an underdog and it's better not to play these hands at all.
Choosing a good Hand:
There are three qualities of a good hand other than pocket pairs that one should look for when selecting hands. Suitedness, straightedness and high-handedness. You hand as long has two of these three qualities, it's a good hand to begin with as it has maximum chances of turning up a decent draw or a good hand on the flop. That's why KT suited is not as good hand as JT suited and 67 suited is better than JT off. Although I wouldn't recommend playing all the hands with two qualities, this is just a good guide to understand the concept of choosing hands altogether. One important thing that trumps the hand choosing is always position which will be explained in a separate thred.
2. Understanding Odds
Let's say you have an open ended straight draw on the flop and there is 1000 in the pot. You are in position and the opponent bets 500 to you. So, with eight outs you have approx 32% chance to win it which gives you 1:3 ratio on winning the hand. At this moment if you call, you have to put 500 in the pot to win 2000 giving you 1:4 ratio on risk versus reward. Hence making it a profitable call as you have a better outcome if you win compared to how much you put in. However, If the opponent overbets the pot as much as 1000 in a 1000 pot, it becomes 1:3 against 3:1 and hence becomes unfavourable to continue as there is no reward for the risk in the long run and you might as well save the money for the time being to play the next hand. If they shove, just muck your cards without a thought.
3. Fold Equity:
Suppose you have a straight draw on the flop and there is 1000 in the pot. You are in position and the opponent bets 500 to you. So, with eight outs you have approx 32% chance to win it which gives you 1:3 ratio on winning the hand. At this moment if you call, you have to put 500 in the pot to win 2000 giving you 1:4 ratio on risk versus reward. Hence making it a profitable call as you have a better outcome if you win compared to how much you put in. You know what makes it even more profitable? Fold equity. What is Fold Equity? Let's say we have 50% chance of winning or losing any hand that we play against a single opponent and at the same time the opponent has 50% chance of winning it too. In the same scenario, you have 32% chance of winning the hand and assuming the opponent has the rest will be an intelligent assumption. Let's say when you reraise the already 1500 chip pot to another 1500 to play, you are giving your opponent the option to fold and hence 25% of his 50% share shift to your side of equation giving you 57% in total and hence improving your chances to win it. This extra leverage that you get when shifting your pressure on him and giving him the option to fold comes to your advantage in the long run and the money earned thus is called Fold equity.
Math of Position:
Most new players don't understand the importance of position and hence keep on losing good hands again and again and keep complaining about bad beats, at the same time, experienced players muck their aces easily and even when they lose their aces, they don't call it a bad beat until there has been a preflop raise. Not being able to see a set, straight or a flush against aces is just lack of information or lack or ability to see the information. This is a precise reason why good players prefer reraising over mucking and play vague hands in position but muck the same hands out of position.
To explain in better and simpler words, poker is a game of information. The person last to act always will have the maximum information to base their decisions on. For you can say, If there are three players in a hand, the Board, Player 1, player two, and player 3 all have 25% information each. When player 1 acts post flop, he has 25% information to base his decision on and he creates 25% information by his actions. Player 2 similarly has 50% information to base his decision on and creates another 25% information through his action. Lastly, our position guy 'Player 3' has 75% information available to him and he has the power over his 25% share giving him the supreme authority over the hand. By evaluating different information like the board, actions by two opponents and his own hypothetical action, players with position can make an intelligent guess about the outcome of the result of the action they take. This increases profits when you win the hand, this cuts losses when you lose the hand, this gives you freedom to choose from wider range of hands to play and above all, this gives you positive Expected Value
in the long run (more profit + Less losses = +ev) making you a winner in poker.
Every action you take, every hand you are involved in, every chip you win, every tournament you play and every ring game you grind in is all about the larger picture of making it to positive expected value. There are two kinds of EV's. Short term and long term, they all add up to the over all EV (Average) and hence as long as all your decisions are focused on positive EV, you will end up winning in the long run.
Let's say you have an open ended straight draw on the flop and there is 1000 in the pot. You are in position and the opponent bets 500 to you. So, with eight outs you have approx 32% chance to win it which gives you 1:3 ratio on winning the hand. At this moment if you call, you have to put 500 in the pot to win 2000 giving you 1:4 ratio on risk versus reward. Hence making it a profitable call as you have a better outcome if you win compared to how much you put in. If you keep on making such calls, after every 100,000 such hands, you would have won these coinflips and lost these coinflips numerous times. But you will be in profit for sure. It's never a good hand or a bad hand, it's always a good decision or a bad decision.
You play $50 / 360 Sit and Go's online everyday for 30 days. You end up in money earning $200 one out of three times on an average as you play tight and make it to the money once every three games you played.Trust me, It beats any professional poker player's record in the world. So in 100 days How much profit did you make by investing $1500 in 10 days? $500 in 30 days. Profitable? Yes. Impressive? Not at all. At a lower percentage of reaching the money, a better player will make more money. How? Every time a better player reaches the bubble game, he will deviate from his TAG play and Play LAG and use position to win blinds and antes and risk a little to increase his stack size so as to reach the final table and win the prize for the first place hence making more than what you have made in a whole month in just one final table. He will play just like you did in the beginning and probably enter less than five money in 30 tourneys (Six money in thirty) because he would loosen up just before the bubble play because his goal is not the money, but the final table. He will end up making thrice as much as you did making it to less than third of the money you did. Why? He understands which is the better way to approach to +EV.
I hope I have explained my points to details with examples and it is easibly comprehensible to non mathemetically enlightened souls as it is useful to people who understad the game too.
You comments and suggestions are welcome and feel free to correct or improve me while doing so as it will help me learn more.