The Difference Between Equity & Expected Value in Poker


The Difference Between Equity & Expected Value in Poker


Blue neon playing cards showing a Royal Flush being fanned out from a neon blue poker chip.

The Difference Between Equity & Expected Value in Poker


Small stacks of poker chips, a dealer chip, playing cards, and one red, six-sided dice.

The language of poker involves many terms. Players use words like “muck” in place of fold and “shove” for all-ins. Such slang words are a breeze for beginners to learn, but “equity” and “expected value” (EV) are a little more complex.

These two concepts, which apply to both live and online poker, are crucial to understand as they’ll inform the decisions you make during a game. Read on to learn about the definition of both terms, their relationship, and how to use these concepts.

Equity Defined

Before comparing EV to equity value, it’s best to define both terms clearly, starting with the latter. So, what is poker equity

You might have heard this term used for real estate, but poker players have equity, too. In Texas hold’em, Omaha, and any other variants, your hand always has a certain amount of equity. Equity is a percentage that shows you how often you can expect to win from this particular spot.

If you have 60% equity, that means you will win 60% of the time, on average. If you played a million hands from this exact situation, you’d reasonably expect to win 600,000 of them. It also means that 60% of the pot “belongs” to you, as it were.

People also like to talk about fold equity. This is the same sort of concept, except it illustrates the percentage of the time you can expect opponents to fold. 

Equity Example

You have 10♥ 10♠ and your friend has A♥ A♠. The board is 10♦ K♣ 3♥.

Your equity is 89.49%, so you’ll win the hand 89.49% of the time. With no draw and just two aces to hit, your opponent is crushed. Their equity is just 10.51%, meaning they’ll win just 10.51% of the time from this situation.

Preflop, however, your friend was in an extremely high equity poker spot. Their pocket aces were set to win 81.19% of the time, while you had just 18.36% equity. The remaining 0.46% represents the chance of a split pot.

Expected Value Defined

A top-down view showing a spotlight on multiple stacks of poker chips with two ace playing cards and two six sided dice in front of them.

With EV in poker, you can work out how profitable each decision will be. As such, this is always going to be a monetary value rather than a percentage. The standard expected value poker notation would be U.S. dollars ($).

You can arrive at either a positive or negative number when calculating the expected value of a play. For example, calling in one spot might be -EV, while raising is +EV. 

Not only does EV show positivity or negativity, but also the full extent of both. An EV of +$10 is obviously a lot more profitable than an EV of $1.50, for example.

EV Example

Your hand is A♠ 5♠ and the board shows J♠ K♥ 3♠ 8♦. The pot is $100 right now, but your opponent moves all in for $50. You’d have to call a bet of $50 to potentially win $150.

You can safely assume that your opponent has better than a pair, so you’ll need to hit the flush to be ahead. The chances of doing so are 20% with one card to come, or 0.2 in decimals. That leaves an 80% chance, or 0.8, of missing the flush.

Here’s how you work out expected winnings or losses for making this call:

EV = hit flush + miss flush

EV = ($150 x 0.2) + (-$50 x 0.8)

EV = ($30) + (-$40)

EV = -$10

The -$10 means that making this call would cost you $10 on average. Yes, you might hit the flush and win the pot this time. But if you played the exact same situation out an infinite number of times, you’d lose money in the long run.

So, you can easily see how using EV to play poker online could make your gameplay more profitable.

How Equity and Expected Value Are Connected

These two terms refer to completely different poker concepts, but there is a relationship between them. You must know your equity, or at least make a guess about it, to calculate EV. You need to use both the equity value and the potential profit and loss to calculate the exact EV.

Expected value can be thought of as a more advanced version of equity. When you calculate EV, you’ll have a more comprehensive figure to work with. That’s not to say that equity isn’t useful, but it’s a metric that only focuses on singular pots. 

The Difference Between the Two

The terms might be muddled together by some players, but they don’t have to be. Equity is shown in percentages, while expected value is shown as a monetary value.

Equity is mainly used to gauge the chances of winning a hand, while the expected value gauges the profitability of your actions. In addition, equity gives information about a single hand, while EV calculations should be thought of as measurements of an action’s long-term profitability.

How Are Equity and Expected Value Used in Poker?

A brightly-lit image of a Royal Flush being held up with stacks of poker chips of various colors in the background.

In poker online games, you should always be looking to maximize both your equity and your EV. Higher equity means you’ve got a better chance of winning, while higher EV means you’re making smarter poker decisions. 

Using Equity

You can use the basic principle of equity to weigh up your chances of a win or loss against certain hands. This can be helpful information when you’re value betting, bluffing, or just trying to figure out your chances of winning. 

Exactly how equity affects poker decisions is easier for beginners to grasp. But it’s impossible to find out the exact equity until you get to a showdown. Often, you’ll have to work with approximate values when studying hand histories. 

Using EV

By understanding exactly how much money can be won and lost from any spot, during cash games or poker tournaments alike, you can play optimally. 

Players should always strive to make +EV plays wherever possible. That said, even a -EV action could make sense against the right opponent. Some actions will be profitable in one-off situations, despite being -EV.

Apply Your Knowledge at Borgata Online

Playing poker online and reviewing your hands will help you wrap your head around equity and EV. After you’ve played a session online, revisit the hand histories. Try to calculate your equity, then look at your exact EV in certain situations. The results might surprise you.If you’re ready to get started, register and play at Borgata Online. Not only will you pick up a welcome bonus with your first deposit, but you’ll also join one of the most trusted brands in the poker world.