Poker Equity Explained

poker cards

Equity poker was a new idea added into the world of poker strategies during the late 90´s poker boom. It introduced a mathematical approach to the game along with other concepts like pot odds. It changed the decision making viewpoint process by professional poker players and marked a before and after in the history of how the game of poker is played.

What is Poker Equity?

Equity in poker is the share of the pot that is yours based on the odds to win at that moment in the game. Equity changes after each new card during the pre-flop, flop, turn and river.

When we say “I have a better equity than another player” it means you have a better hand at the moment.

When your equity is higher than the opponent then your decision should be to make a bet or even a hard raise. This is the main objective of poker equity, defining the right moment to bet.

By betting, players with the weaker hands will probably fold before seeing another card and you take the pot. If they call, then the pot grows increasing your equity size, although this can change with the next card or you read your opponent wrong.

Poker equity can be used in advanced poker strategies to improve your game.

Example of Poker Equity

Consider the following scenario:

You have 65% chances of winning after flop and decide to bet $2,000.

Your opponent, after some hard thinking decides to call.

The total bet is now $4,000.

65% of $4,000 is $2,600. Your equity increased $600.

Equity as a Tactical Weapon

To use equity to the fullest, you must use it the first chance you get, and that would be pre-flop. Most professional players do so.

If you feel you have the strongest hand then you must raise, if you don’t, then you missed a big chance to increase your equity.

By increasing the bet early in the game you force other players to withdraw, establishes a strong aggressive player image and marks you as the position leader.

One thing you need to remember is that none of the players really know their equity, and that includes you. This is a key in poker, learning to correctly predict the equity of other players and yours. If you play the aggressor, rivals will naturally think you are playing strong hands and begin to assign you more equity than you actually have, and this can be exploited for bluffing.

Bigger Equity but Worst Hand

A scenario that might happen is when you have a larger equity but find yourself behind in the hand. Let’s see this through an example.

Three players remain on the flop.

You are last to call and have 10A – 9A

Opponent 1 has AH – 8H and Opponent 2 has QC – QD

The flop comes and it is 8S – 7H – 2S

At this point your hand is weaker than both opponents. Opponent 1 has a pair of 8´s and Opponent 2 had a pair of Queens. You have nothing yet, but a big prospect of straight draw and flush draw.

Your equity at this point is 55%

Opponent 2 has 28%

Opponent 1 has 17%

Equity helps you take the decision to bet. Right now you only have 10 high and your opponents probably feel confident enough to call a weak raise or even a big one. You don´t want to stake all you have for almost a 50% chance. Your potential is still good and there is a lot of money to be made if they call. So a semi-bluff would be the right call.

You raise $2,000, a big raise. Both players call.

Your new equity is 55% of $6,000 = $3,300. Almost double your bet.

The turn is a 3 of diamonds. No player nails a wider edge but yours drops drastically to 36% and opponent 1 increased his equity to 55% with pocket Queens. Opponent 2 is now at 9%.

Opponent 1 seizes the opportunity and makes a huge bet of $6,000. Opponent 2 folds.

By equity standards you should fold. There´s only 1 in 3 chances you can win. You could get lucky but this is not how a professional player makes a living.

The only reasonable scenario to call would be if your stack size is not very small to be competitive.

Equity as a Poker Strategy

As you can see poker equity is a pretty simple concept to understand that makes a huge difference in your decision taking. Every aspiring new player must test it out from the beginning and master it. This concept alone can be adapted with many other poker strategies and help you move along the ranks.