What Is Equity In Poker & Why Does It Matter?

Equity is the most fundamental concept in poker. If you’re not very familiar with it, then this article is going to be extremely valuable for your poker game.

Let’s dive into what equity is and why it matters so much.

What is Equity?

Equity refers to the share of the pot that belongs to a player if there were no more actions to be made and the rest of the cards are dealt. It is based on the probability that a player will have the best hand after the cards are dealt. 

For example, if you go all-in preflop with Pocket Aces and another player calls with Pocket Kings, there is an 82% probability that you will still have the best hand once the flop, turn, and river are dealt. Therefore, your equity is 82%.

How is Equity Calculated?

On earlier streets (preflop and the flop), equity is best calculated with tools like Poker Equilab. These tools run through a very large number of simulations of different runouts at which point the best poker hand (see: poker hand rankings) is rewarded with the pot.

equilab equity calculation

This screenshot shows a Poker Equilab calculation. It has simulated over 16 million possible board runouts, finding that AA has 81.94% equity versus KK.

Calculating equity on the turn is simpler. You can still use a tool like Equilab, but you can also do it in your head. You just need to know how many outs the hand that is behind has to win.

For example, suppose I have A A♣ against your J♠ T♠ and the board is 9♠ 6♠ 2 2♠. For me to overcome your flush, I must hit either a 2 or an Ace on the river to make a full house. There are a total of 44 cards left in the deck and four of them will give me that much-needed full house. 44 divided by four comes out to 9.1% — that’s my equity with Pocket Aces versus your flush.

Why Does it Matter?

Fundamentally, poker is a mathematically driven game with probability theory at its core. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other aspects to the game when humans play it with each other, but the game itself is built on top of this mathematical foundation.

Equity is the single largest driving factor of poker strategy. It is a tool used to determine everything in poker, like whether you should:

Let’s take a look at a few scenarios where we use equity to determine the best course of action.

#1 – Bluff-Catching

Let’s say you are on the river holding JT on a J9743and your opponent bets $50 into a $100 pot. You estimate that his range consists of 70% stronger hands and 30% weaker hands than yours.

In this case, using equity and pot odds, you can estimate whether or not a call will be profitable. You need to call $50 in order to win $100 (the pot) + $50 (your opponent’s bet) + $50 (you get your bet back when you win the pot) which means you need to be right (50/200) x 100 = 25% of the time.

In other words, you need to have over 25% equity. Given that your equity is 30%, you can deduce that a call is highly profitable.

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#2 – Value Betting

Let’s assume that you hold the same hand on the same board (JT on a J9743). But this time, you need to decide if your hand is strong enough to bet for value.

You estimate that if you were to bet $50 into the $100 pot, you would get called by 45% worse hands and 55% better hands. In other words, your equity against the calling range is 45%.

That means that:

  • EV (expected value) = (45/100) * 50 – (55/100) * 50
  • EV = 50 * (45-55)
  • EV = 50 * (-10)
  • EV = -$5
  • (45/100) * 50 – 45 out of 100 times that he calls we win his bet ($50)
  • (55/100) * 50 – 55 out of 100 times that he calls we lose our bet ($50)

This means that you cannot profitably bet for value with this hand.

Further explanation: This type of bet is still +EV (profitable) when you take into consideration the number of folds that you get (fold equity). But it’s less profitable than other actions such as checking or betting smaller (which may entice your opponent to call with a larger number of worse hands).

#3 – C-Bet Frequency

Equity is the number one driving factor (but not the only one) for aggression. This makes sense because the player who has more equity wants to increase the size of the pot while she is ahead.

Let’s take a look at a few numbers from some simulations I’ve made for Button vs Big Blind single raised pots that prove this concept:

Board Button Equity Betting Frequency:

  • K Q♣ 6 
    • Button Equity: 56.5%
    • Betting Frequency: 83.5%
  • Q♠ J 7 
    • Button Equity: 55.5%
    • Betting Frequency: 73.6%
  • T♠ 9 7 
    • Button Equity: 53.5%
    • Betting Frequency: 53.5%
  • 8♣ 7 4♣ 
    • Button Equity: 52%
    • Betting Frequency: 45.2%

C-Bet Frequency Solver Analysis

This concept of higher equity and higher betting frequency also applies at the micro-level.

If you look at the same simulations used for these numbers, you’ll find that, generally speaking, the higher the equity of the hand, the more frequently the solver places a bet with it. Take a look here at the 8♣ 7 4♣ flop solution for the Button:

Flop Sim from PioSolver

I want you to focus on the 8x and the 7x hands. Can you notice the trend?

  • A8-suited bets 95% of the time
  • K8-suited bets 71% of the time
  • Q8-suited bets 45% of the time
  • J8-suited bets 23% of the time
  • T8-suited bets 19% of the time
  • 98-suited bets 4% of the time.

The stronger the kicker, the higher the betting frequency (for the most part). 

Pro view: Of course, there are some other factors at play for different hands such as the overpairs, where the trend is reversed. But that is a topic for another article: “Checking Flops with Overpairs: When Should You Do It?

#4 – To Bluff or Not to Bluff

to bluff or not to bluff

That is the question!

And equity can help us answer it (provided we can make an accurate approximation of it). Let’s take an example to illustrate this idea.

The pot is $100 and you have AQ-offsuit on a J7533 board. You estimate that you have 15% equity if you check back and show down. But you also estimate that if you bet 75% of the pot, you will make your opponent fold 50% of the time and win 0% of the time when you get called.

So, which line is better?

We calculate the EV of each using the equity that we estimated.

  • EV (check) = (15/100) * $100
  • EV (check) = $15
  • EV (bluff) = (50/100) * $100 – (50/100) * $75
  • EV (bluff) =  $50 – $37.5
  • EV (bluff) = $12.5

By using equity and simple math we were able to determine which line is the most profitable for our situation: checking.

Final Thoughts

Equity is the most important factor in strategy development, but it’s not the only one. Correctly approximating what your hand’s equity is in every situation is a fundamental skill that will certainly help you win more money at the tables than your opponents.

To improve this aspect of your game you can use a variety of tools that calculate equity (equity calculators and solvers). 

That’s all for this article! I hope I was able to open some lightbulbs in your mind regarding this topic. 

If you want to learn about another key poker concept, check out What is Fold Equity and Why Does it Matter?

Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!

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