If you’ve ever taken part in any poker discussions online, you’ve probably seen mention of EV. If you want to get in on the discussion but don’t know how, here is a basic explanation regarding what poker players mean when they refer to EV.
EV stands for expected value, and players usually speak in terms of positive EV (+EV) or negative EV (-EV). This simply refers to the value of a certain play in a poker game. If you call a $20 bet to win a $100 pot and you are better than 5-to-1 to win the hand, you have made a +EV play. If you are worse than 5-to-1 to win the hand, you have made a –EV play.
The Importance of EV in Poker
Put simply, expected value is what poker is all about. If you make more positive EV plays then negative EV ones over the course of your playing career, you will be a winning player in the online poker rooms. If you make more negative EV plays, you will be a losing player.
Calculating expected value is not always easy and how you will do it will vary given the situation. For example, some players will refer to a decision to sit in a game at higher stakes than you are ready for as “-EV.” Even though this is not as clearly quantifiable as putting $50 into a pot that is only really worth $20 to you, it is still meaningful. If that game has stakes so high that the variance will wipe out your bankroll before you have a chance for your +EV plays to work, you are in a –EV situation. If you are in a game where most of the other players are making more +EV plays than you, you are in a –EV situation. Of course, more simply, calling bets when you don’t have the correct odds to do so is –EV.
EV is a helpful analysis tool because it will alert you as to what the correct play will be should a similar situation arise again. Your goal as a poker player should be to identify common –EV moves that you make and replace them with +EV moves.