Poker Academy: Theoretic Game Strategies

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Poker Academy: Theoretic Game Strategies

As you play the game, you would realize that there are two ways of developing poker strategies against opponents into two aspects – identifying the opponent’s strategy and computing the most profitable response to his strategy. 

The first strategy is all about gathering information and it requires observation and experience to draw conclusions. Once you understand your opponent’s strategy, you can go a long way in making profitable adjustments quickly. 

However, the second skill is highly important in cash games. This is because in cash games, you tend to play many similar games that help you make the most efficient use of that information. The need for strategy arises so that you can exploit your opponent’s play. This leads us to important strategic concepts like the expected value and some exploitative poker strategies. 

Expected Value

The expected value of some quantity that depends on random events is the average of all the possible values of quantity weighted by the likelihood of each value. Let’s take an example of a six-sided die to understand this better. When the die is rolled, it can land with any number from one to six face-up. Each of these is equally likely to happen with a probability of 1/6. Therefore, the expected value of the result of one roll is: 


Now technically, we can talk about the expected value of many different quantities whose values are uncertain. We shall use the term EV (expected value) to the expectations of the stack sizes. 

For example, when we say EV of calling, it refers to the expected value of the size of the player’s chip stack at the end of the hand, if he makes a decision to call. 

Let’s take a simple example. Suppose the hero is facing an all-in bet on the river in a hand where both players started with 75BB. There are 50BB in the pot and the Villain’s river bet size is also 50BB. Therefore, the hero needs to risk 50BB to call the bet and win 100BB. But what is the expected value of his stack size after calling and after folding? Which one should he choose? 

If the hero folds he knows exactly how many chips he will have at the end of the hand. However, if he calls there can be two possibilities: 

  1. He can double up a stack of 150BB 40% of the time
  2. He will go broke 60% of the time

Therefore, the expected size stack if he calls is: 


The correct play here is for the hero to call. 

Calculating The EV WRT Stack Size

There is another way to calculate the EV is the expected change in stack size relative to the current size. Suppose, both the players have 10BB stacks. It is the start of the hand and the hero is in SB choosing between Fold and Raise. What is the EV of folding? And what is the EV of raising if the BB will fold to the raise? 

Let’s calculate: 

EV (folding) = 0 BB

EV (raising if the BB folds) = 1.5 BB

If the hero folds, the stack size at the end of the hand is the same as the decision point. 

Maximally Exploitative Strategies

A maximally exploitative strategy is the most profitable response to your opponent’s fixed strategy. Let’s take a quick example. 

Suppose the hero is the SB with a strategy to open-raise every Button and the villain always folds. What is the value of the game to the hero? 

The answer is 1BB. The hero can win 1BB per hand with any two cards. To understand this better, you need to know the hand ranges of the opponents and the decision trees which we will discuss in detail in a later chapter. 

Points To Remember

You need to divide your poker play strategies into two parts as we discussed at the beginning of this chapter. Then you must develop the ideas necessary to solve exactly for Hero’s maximally response against the Villain’s possible strategy.

You must be on the lookout to expand your ideas on the following: 

Be comfortable with the use of the term EV and understand the difference between expected value, profit and equity. 

Evaluate the EV of each option and opt for the largest.

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