Pot Equity in Poker

If you’ve studied pot odds thoroughly, you know when to make a call based on the amount of money you need to put in the pot versus your odds of winning. But pot equity takes things a step further by determining what percentage of the pot is yours based on the odds of winning a hand. So in the spirit of advancing the pot odds concept, let’s take a more in-depth look at pot equity.

Pot Equity Example

We’ve covered how pot equity is the amount of money that belongs to you in a pot based on your chances of winning the hand. Of course, it’s hard to get a clear mental picture of this without going over an example of pot equity. So to set up our example, let’s say that you hold AA and your opponent holds 22; you have around an 80% chance of winning this hand, so assuming there was $20 in the pot, your pot equity would be $16.

However, pot equity doesn’t remain constant throughout the hand because your chances of winning change with each card that’s dealt. Now let’s say that the flop is 2-5-9 rainbow; your pot equity has changed from 80% to just 14%, which dramatically decreases your profitability in this hand.

Applying Pot Equity to your Poker Game

Unfortunately, pot equity differs from pot odds in that you can’t work out a concrete mathematical result using this concept. The reason why is because you will never truly know what hole cards your opponent is holding. However, you can estimate your pot equity based on the board, your cards and an opponent’s betting patterns. For instance, if you’re holding JJ on a board of J-6-9 rainbow with $35 in the pot, you have great pot equity here.

Seeing as how you’ve already got a set, the best move would be to raise for the maximum that you think an opponent would call since you’re getting the best of the pot. Assuming we knew you had 75% pot equity, you would be getting $0.75 out of every extra dollar that an opponent was willing to call. As you may have guessed, this is the whole basis for value betting.

Sure hands on the turn or river could bring your opponent a better hand, and shift pot equity dramatically. However, if you continually get maximum value out of hands where you have better than 50% pot equity, you’ll come out a winner in the long run.