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# Expected Value in Texas Holdem Poker

A successful Texas hold em player is one who maximizes his return or minimizes his loss with each decision he makes. Expected value (EV) is essentially the amount one would expect to win or lose if this decision were to be repeated millions of times. (rememer your precalculus "limit as n goes to infinity"??? didn't think so!)

Every poker decision, whether it be to bet, raise, check/call, check/fold, check/raise has an expectation of success or failure. Those that will lose you money in the long run are said to have negative expected value (-EV). Folding always has an expected value of zero. You will never gain or lose money by folding. Folding, though it has an EV of zero, may often be your best decision from an EV perspective.

Let's look at a few examples. Expected value is not always easily calculable, even in limit texas holdem, but every time you play you should try to analyze your decisionmaking with EV in your mind. For instance, you're playing 1/2 and in the small blind with 84o on a flop of K96 rainbow. The small blind checks and only you and a tight player are left. There is three dollars in the pot. Should you bet? You are risking one dollar. Betting has a positive expectation if you can expect the other two to fold more than one in four times. If you try it four times and it succeeds once, you win a three dollar pot and lose your one dollar bet the three other times, making it a 0 EV play. (We're discounting the chance that you are called and catch runner runner or win in some other very unlikely way) Remember, we analyze each decision on its own Expected Value merits. If you are called and catch an 8 on the turn, you must again analyze your decisions based on their likelihood of success or failure in the long run. Poker, and Texas Holdem in particular, is a game of short term variations, but you must continue to make the correct EV decisions and you will be a winner in the long term.

Even preflop you must think along expected value lines. You may be holding AJs in the small blind. Six players, most of them very loose, limp before you. A raise is in order. Think in terms of expected value or pot equity. Your hand figures to win more than one in every seven times against the starting hands held by the others, so a raise is in order. Again, evaluate each decision on its own merits. If you miss the flop in this instance, checking and folding may be your best option from an EV standpoint. Or, it may not...you may have an overcard, gutshot and back door flush draw...again, do the math in your head and arrive at the correct decision.

Finally, remember this...in general, a bet has a higher EV than a check/call. You will sometimes win by forcing people to fold. Now, there are times when this is not correct due to the threat of a raise (if you're planning on calling), but always bear it in mind. In Texas Holdem, aggressive poker is winning poker.

Greg Dwyer is a professional online poker player. His poker strategy websites can be found at http://www.HitTheFlop.com and http://www.pokercentral.us

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