Understanding Value Equity

Value equity is the expected profit, on average, over time, that we will make with a certain hand in a certain situation. For instance, if we have pocket aces, we know that we are expected to win a certain amount on average with this hand, or at least we should if we are any kind of player.

There are, as you might imagine, a lot of different variables that can arise here between where we are at and when all the cards are shown down. As we get better at the game our estimates will improve in turn, but the most important thing at the outset is to be able to tell the difference between a hand which has positive value equity and a hand that does not.

At best though, value equity is a lot more complicated than fold equity is, where we’re just basically looking to see how often someone folds and whether or not its profitable to bet or raise based upon that, or based upon an expectation that the opponent will fold enough later in the hand.

Value Equity Is All About Going To Showdown

While we ultimately need to account for both fold and value equity in calculating our total equity with a hand, and to be technical, even bluffs have a chance to win at showdown so even they have their element of value equity built in, before we can do any of these more advanced calculations, we need to understand value equity in of itself.

Now I don’t want people to think that good poker involves way more math than they ever would want to be using, and while it’s true that as you advance the math does get a little more complex, you can be a good player without getting into that too deeply. There’s only so much figuring you can do during your turn anyway, and especially online, no one has all that much time to act.

There are some important concepts to be learned about value equity though and I will be sharing some of them with you here. The first one and perhaps the most important one is that value equity only pertains to showdown.

So the first thing you have to take into account is the likelihood that you will get pushed off your hand and have to fold it. The more often you have to do this, the less value equity you have, and this can even take a clear good hand which would normally have value equity and cast it into the negative equity column.

This is a lot like taking a fairly good hand in early or mid position pre flop and then assessing the likelihood of your actually being able to play it. If you put money in the pot and end up folding it later in the betting round too often then there’s no value in that. This is one of the reasons why position adds value to good hands.

Value In Reference To Pot Odds

We do not always need the best hand to pursue value equity with our hands. The best example of this would be in limit poker where an opponent bets into you at the river and it’s only one tenth of the size of the pot. So how often do you have to be good to make this call make sense? Just winning one tenth of the time will show a profit for you.

In no limit though, we don’t see these huge pot odds to call, as people will generally bet at least half the pot. However, with a half size pot bet to call, you are only risking one unit to win 3, so you need to win only a quarter of these hands to break even.

Things are usually not so simple though, as there is usually people left to act and cards yet to be dealt. In almost all cases though, you don’t need to be the favorite to have value equity, since this value is derived from the difference between what it costs you to play and what can be made, and the money in the pot definitely factors into things.

The Biggest Decision Is Whether You Have Enough

Whether it’s deciding whether to fold a hand or not, or deciding whether you have enough fold equity if you bet and get called, value equity decisions generally boil down to whether you have enough value equity or not to make a particular move.

The strength of your hand definitely matters, but it’s never in a vacuum. What your opponent or opponents still in the hand may have is just as important, as hand strength is always a relative thing. Less skilled players tend to pay too much attention to their own cards, and that’s always a mistake.

So the idea behind this piece is to make sure that you’re thinking about the right things here when it comes to value equity, as even though a lot of poker these days is taking down pots, value still plays a significant part in our game and the better you understand it, the better player you will become.