Poker Equity (Pot Equity)
Equity percentages in this article have been calculated using the handy (and free) PokerStove.
Pot equity (or just "Poker equity") is a mathematical application to poker that helps to explain why you should bet or check in certain situations.
What is equity in Poker?
Your equity is basically the amount of the pot that "belongs" to you based on the odds you have to win at a particular point in the hand.
So if there is 60% chance that you are going to win, you have 60% equity in the hand. It's as simple as that.
Poker equity example.
Say for example we hold A K preflop and we know for a fact that our opponent holds J T, and there is $30 in the pot. If we run these hands through an odds calculator it tells us that we have a 65% chance of winning the hand, assuming that all the cards are dealt out and neither player folds. Therefore our current pot equity is 65% of $30, or put more simply, $19.5.
This equity will not stay the same throughout the hand, because as more cards are dealt the strength and potential of each hand will change, and thus each player’s equity will change with it.
If the flop comes J T 2, our equity will change dramatically as we no longer have the hand that is most likely to win the pot. If we run our hands through an odds calculator once more, it shows that we now have a 22% chance of winning, which gives us a 22% equity of the amount that is currently in the pot.
Furthermore, if the turn comes the Q giving us a straight, the odds of us winning the hand by the river will dramatically increase, and thus our equity will change once more. The odds calculator now tells us that we have a 91% chance of winning, whereas our opponent only has 9% chance of winning as they have to catch a J or a T to make a full house and win the pot.
Where do these pot equity percentages come from?
These percentage figures come from repeated computer simulations of the particular situations to help find an accurate estimate of each hand’s chances of winning.
So when you put the particular hand combinations into an odds calculator, the calculator runs out the rest of the hand thousands of times and notes down how many times each hand wins to give an accurate figure on the likelihood of the hand holding up. The likelihood of a hand winning in a certain situation is the same as the equity the hand has.
A great example of a free (and very useful) equity calculator is PokerStove. Try it.
How to use equity in Poker.
It’s good to know what our chances of winning are and how much equity we have, but how should we incorporate this sort of information into our game?
The answer is that you will rarely know what your opponent is exactly holding, and so it is not really possible to work out your equity whilst at the table and use it to your advantage. However, the principle of equity and the equity you have in each pot at each stage in the hand explains why you should bet your hands when you think that you have the best of it.
When you have the best hand at the table, you are betting for value when you have the majority of the equity in the hand.
Betting for value because of pot equity.
For example, on the turn in the last example where we held A K against our opponents J T on a board of J T 2 Q, we had the nut straight and equity of 91%. This means that for every extra dollar that we can get into the pot, we will be winning 91 cents of it. Therefore it stands to reason that we should try to get as much money into the pot as possible, and thus we are betting for value and trying to maximize the amount of money we will be winning from the hand.
If you have more than 50% equity in the hand, you want to get as much money in the pot as possible.
It may be the case that the river brings another J or T giving our opponent the better hand with a full house, but this fact is irrelevant on the turn when we have 91% equity. So even though we are increasing the amount of money we can lose by putting more money into a pot where we could be outdrawn, we are also increasing the amount of money we can win.
By putting more money in the pot with the best hand at this point (even though there is the chance that we may still lose), we will be winning more money in the long run. Don’t be afraid to put money into the pot when you feel that you have the best of it.
The principle of equity in poker also explains why you should raise with the best hand preflop. There are a number of reasons for raising preflop, such as; reducing the number of players in the pot, buying position, being the aggressor and so on.
Equity however is still an important principle that makes it profitable to raise preflop. Not only is it because you may well be getting money in with the best hand and therefore betting for value, but because you are raising the stakes with your raise, and creating opportunities to get more money into the pot when you have good equity in the pot later in the hand.
Poker equity evaluation.
Equity in poker is a basic principle involved with poker mathematics that helps to explain the strategy of betting when you have the best of it. By betting for value you can increase the amount of money you will be winning from each particular hand. Similarly, by checking and folding with the worst of it in the right situations, you can help to reduce the amount of money that you will be losing.
Betting for value increases the amount of money you will be winning from each hand.
As already mentioned, it is often very difficult to exactly work out your equity in each situation, but it is good to take note of the fact that you want to try and get as much money into the pot when you are confident that you have the best hand.
For further reading on equity, take a look at the article on poker equity and draws.
If you're getting confused between equity and EV, read the article on the difference between equity and EV.