What is Poker Equity and Why is it Important?

Black and gold poker cards and poker chips falling.

As a novice poker player, you may have heard people discussing something called equity but were unsure what they were talking about. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Poker equity is quite an advanced concept in offline and online poker play, which is why we’ve put together this article to help you better understand it. So join us as we explain what poker equity is, why it’s important and other ideas related to this aspect of high-level poker play. 

What is equity in poker?

Many players like to describe equity as the portion of the pot that a player could assign to a particular player, based on the strength of their current hand compared to other players in the game. However, hand strength isn’t the only element that affects equity. The equity of the strongest hands will decrease the more players there are in a game simply because more players means a greater chance that an opponent could draw a hand that is stronger than, or at very least equal to, an otherwise winning hand. Equity also changes after each street, beginning with pre-flop, then the flop, then the turn and ending on the river as more cards enter play. 

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical game where you are playing against one opponent. If you have a pair of aces versus your opponent’s pair of kings, you would have equity of 81.06% against your opponents equity of 18.55%, with a 0.38% possibility of a tie. Assuming a pot of $100, $81 dollars is “yours,” while $19 “belongs” to your opponent. However, if a king, queen and a jack were to appear on the flop, the equity would swing in favor of your opponent, giving them equity of 78.48%, you equity of 20.71% and the chance of a tie at 0.81%.

This example illustrates equity as the chance of you winning a particular game of poker based on the cards that you have, what street it is and how many people are in the game. 

Why is equity important in poker?

Quite simply, understanding what your equity is at any point in a game can dramatically affect its outcome. It can allow you to increase your chances of winning a pot by knowing when you should raise or go all-in. It will also help you know when to call or fold so that you can preserve your bankroll. 

How to calculate equity in poker

A man wearing glasses sits at his laptop. His hand is placed against his chin while he thinks.

The most obvious way to determine equity is by using an equity calculator. These tools are easy to use and will provide you with detailed information on your chances of winning depending on your hand, your opponents’ hands and the community cards. And this is where things get complicated.

How do I calculate poker equity when I don’t know my opponent’s hand?

You may have noticed a “glaring issue” with equity and calculating it: knowing what your opponents’ cards are. Surely if you knew what your opponents’ hands were each time you played, you’d just fold or raise regardless? 

Yes, there is no way to know exactly what cards your opponents have, which means you must use equity in another way: by trying to estimate the range of your opponents’ cards. 

When you don’t know a player, your range will have to be wide simply because you don’t know how they play. However, as you learn more about how they play poker, either in observing how they approach streets in a single game, or by learning how they play over the course of multiple games, you’ll be able to narrow down the range and thereby gain a more accurate idea of what each player’s style is. This, in turn, gives you a better idea of what their range is and therefore what each player’s equity is.

How range and equity work together

The key takeaway from this is you aren’t trying to figure out what your opponents’ exact hands are, but rather the range of hands that they most likely have (be careful of good players who understand poker hand representation and how to manipulate it.) This can, in turn, be used to calculate a number of possibilities when it comes to equity, which in turn can be used to try and give you an edge on your opponent. 

Ultimately though, these are just educated guesses, and while it’s better than going in completely blind, there’s still the chance that you’re wrong about your opponents’ range, which will affect the accuracy of your equity calculations.

An easier way to calculate your odds of winning

A man pushes his chips into the middle of the table and goes all-in in a casual cash poker game with friends.

If you don’t have access to equity calculators (either because you don’t have one or are not allowed to use it) and you find the above method we described a bit too complicated, there is an easier option to calculate your winning odds. This easier option is known as the rule of four and two.

When using the rule of four and two, you begin by tallying up your outs. Outs are the cards that could appear and make your hand a winning one. For example, if you have a five and six, and the community cards are seven, eight and ace, you’d need a four or a nine to complete a straight. There are potentially four fours and four nines that could help you win the game. That’s a total of eight outs. 

Then you multiply the number of outs you have by either four or two, depending on whether it’s the flop (third street, with two community cards to come) or turn (fourth street, with one more community card to come.) Here’s what it would look like written down if we continue with our hypothetical example from above:

  • 8 outs x 4 = 32% chance of hitting a straight after the flop
  • 8 outs x 2 = 16% chance of hitting a straight after the turn

Now let’s put these variables into an equity calculator and give our opponent a hand. The equity calculator comes up with the following equity values for your hand:

  • 34.24% chance of a winning hand after the flop
  • 18.18% chance of a winning hand after the turn

As you can see, the easier method is not quite as accurate, but it’s pretty close and can still be useful in helping you gain an edge on your opponents.

Hit the poker tables with your newfound knowledge

If you’re interested in putting the things you’ve learned in this piece into practice, or you just want to have a good time relaxing and playing some online poker, be sure to check out what we have to offer at Borgata Online. At our online casino, you can enjoy online poker cash games, as well as exciting online poker tournaments if you want to take part in an even more competitive experience. 

And if you want to take a break from online poker, you can also enjoy other exhilarating online casino games like bingo, blackjack, roulette and slots, as well as thrilling online sports betting, all with the same account!

Register at Borgata Online to join in all the gambling excitement.