Poker Player's Secret Weapon: Unveiling the Power of Expected Value

Poker is one of the most popular casino games. It’s played by millions of people across the world, in both traditional in-person games and online. There are countless different variations of the game, but all follow the same basic premise and use the same hands.

Poker is a game that beginners can enjoy, but it can also be a deep, complex game with options for tactical planning and analysis. You may hear experienced players talk about ‘expected value’, a term that can be confusing to the poker novice.

In this article, we discuss what exactly is meant by expected value and demonstrate how it can be used to improve your game.

The Rules of Poker

The Rules of Poker

Before we can get into expected value, first let’s go over the basic rules of poker to ensure we’re all on the same page.

In poker, players compete to win the pot, which is made up of bets made by players at the table. Each player holds a hand and can bet if they feel their hand is better than their opponent’s. At the end of the betting round, the players reveal their cards, and the player with the best hand wins the pot.

There are ten different kinds of hands in poker, each of which can be made up of a number of different cards. The lowest value hand is a high card, with the highest being a royal flush.

There are many different variations of the game of poker, but the most popular by far is Texas Hold’Em. In Texas Hold’Em, each player holds two cards in their hand, while five community cards are placed face up in the middle of the table. Each player can use these community cards in combination with their own cards to form winning hands.

What Is Expected Value?

What Is Expected Value

If you want to enjoy a game of poker with your friends or at an online casino platform like 10Bet ( for example, you can do so with only a basic knowledge of the game and the hands.

However, if you want to elevate your game and take things to the next level, understanding some of the more tactical concepts is key.

Many people assume poker is all about luck. While luck certainly comes into play, it’s all a game that rewards skill, and successful players must have excellent judgment and decision-making abilities.

When making a decision in poker, such as whether to call or raise, there is a system through which players can evaluate how successful this decision will be, this is called expected value.

For example, if you’re playing Texas Hold’Em and you have a hand of two aces, this hand will beat most others the majority of the time. This means it holds a high expected value. It won’t win 100% of the time, but enough to see you profit from betting on this hand in the long run.

How to Calculate Expected Value

How to Calculate Expected Value

Expected value is all about probability. It can be used to make sense of what seem to be random, unconnected events, and to use this information to your advantage.

There is a formula that can be used to analyze decisions in a game of poker and to generate the expected value of a particular course of action. This formula is:

% Chance of Winning X Potential Prize + % Chance of Losing X Potential Loss

This calculation will give you the expected value of a particular decision. However, you can’t exactly bring a calculator out during a game, other players at the table won’t be impressed. Over time, you’ll learn how to perform these calculations in your head and will be able to immediately assess the expected value without disrupting the flow of a game.

Understanding Variance and the Power of Long-Term Perspective

In the intricate world of poker, the concept of expected value (EV) stands as a cornerstone of strategic decision-making. Essentially, EV represents the average potential outcome of a particular play.

When a player makes decisions based on positive EV, they’re positioning themselves for success. However, it’s not just about the immediate game; the real magic lies in understanding the broader picture.

Variance: The Game’s Unpredictable Nature

Variance: The Game's Unpredictable Nature

Enter variance, poker’s unpredictable element. While you might make a decision with a high expected value, short-term outcomes can be swayed by variance, leading to results that might seem out of sync with your strategic choices.

Think of it as the ebb and flow of the tide; sometimes, despite your best efforts, the waves don’t always go in the expected direction.

Adopting a Long-Term Vision

This is where the long-term perspective becomes invaluable. Instead of getting bogged down by the occasional unexpected outcome, seasoned players recognize that over countless hands, their positive EV decisions will bear fruit.

By maintaining this perspective, players can navigate the tumultuous waters of short-term fluctuations, ensuring they remain steadfast in their strategy.

Practical Tip: Always remember, poker is a marathon, not a sprint. Embrace the journey, trust in your strategy, and let the law of large numbers work in your favor.

Other Poker Tips

Other Poker Tips

As well as expected value, there are other ways to improve your poker game and win big at the table.

Don’t be afraid to fold. A good poker player knows when to quit and wait for the next hand. Bet less hands but bet aggressively on the hands you do back. This will establish yourself at the table and ensure you don’t fritter away all of your chips.

Keep a close eye on your opponents. Eventually, you’ll pick up on unique behaviors that can tell you if they have a strong hand or not. This is a crucial skill that you must master if you want to improve your game.


If you want to take your poker game to the next level, it’s vital that you learn about expected value. The formula can be used to evaluate your decisions and to ensure you are always making the right moves.

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