As a budding poker player, there are many concepts to be considered when designing preflop and postflop strategy. The idea of equity realisation is no exception to this, however, is often kept ‘hush-hush’ by professionals. Within this article, I hope to explain the importance of equity realisation and how it can give you the edge in any poker game you play!
In any given poker hand your holding will have some amount of equity versus your opponents range. This is true for both preflop and postflop. However, since poker is a game of 3 streets, it is possible that you may be forced to fold the equity you have by your opponents betting. Equity realisation is the factor of equity you expect to realise as a function of the total equity you have. This sounds complex, so allow me to explain the assumptions underlying this concept.
Why is Equity Realisation so Important?
It is possible to quantify the amount of equity a preflop holding has versus an opening range using software tools. A good example of which would be ‘Equilab’ produced by pokerstrategy.com. The issue is that when doing this, we do not consider how often we reach showdown with this holding. Reaching showdown is essential since this is necessary to ‘realise’ equity in the pot. Thus, when considering whether we have a profitable preflop call, offering pot odds as a justification is not enough. This suggests that there are two different types of equities when discussing poker theory: ‘Raw’ equity and ‘Real’ equity. The relationship is as stated below.
What Influences Equity Realisation?
The size of the equity realisation factor is essentially the likelihood that with any combination we reach showdown, hence, there are multiple factors to consider.
Being in position allows us to dictate whether we bet or check to see the next card. Thus, it becomes apparent that being in position will increase the equity realisation of any hand we hold. This is the case as we will reach showdown more frequently with marginal hands in our range. Thus, it must also be the case that being out of position will decrease the equity realisation of any hand.
- Hand Category
Additionally, the type of hand we hold will affect our equity realisation factor. Although not intuitive, this does make a lot of sense. A hand such as 6♥7♥ is far more likely to reach showdown than a hand such as K♣3♠. The reason this is the case is that 67s will often flop air or strong draws. These draws have a lot of raw equity and implied odds versus our opponent’s range. In this case, calling bets on multiple streets will likely be profitable, and hence showdown will be reached at a higher frequency. Conversely, K3o at best flops a weak top pair and can be bluffed out of the pot. Hence it is difficult to profitably call on many textures. Thus, K3o, when compared with 67s, reaches showdown much less frequently.
Although at face value ability doesn’t seem like it should influence equity realisation, when considered at a macro level it makes sense. Although ability might not change any single hand’s equity realisation, it should affect the overall range. Being a more able poker player would suggest that you will pick good spots to both bluff and bluff catch, hence increasing equity realisation.
Equity Realisation: Worked Example
Let’s assume we are playing in a £1/1 game at a casino. We are in the big blind with Q♠3♣; it folds to the button who opens to £3 and the small blind folds. Preflop we must call £2 to win £4.5, giving us pot odds equal to:
Running the simulation through Equilab, using a reasonable button opening range (see below), we find that Q3o, in fact, has 38.2% equity and hence at face value makes a profitable call.
Button Opening Range:
Q3o versus Button Opening Range:
However, considering what we know about equity realisation, we can transform this raw equity figure into a more realistic ‘real’ equity value. A realistic equity realisation factor for a hand like Q3o out of position is likely to be roughly 0.7, hence the ‘real’ equity of the hand makes Q3o an unprofitable call preflop:
Let us compare this with a hand that has close to identical raw equity versus a button opening range, but a higher equity realisation factor, such as 5♥4♥.
As before, 54s needs 30.8% raw equity to be a profitable call. Assuming an equity realisation factor of 0.9 compared with that of Q3o (0.7) we can now see how the two hands differ in profitability. This demonstrates that even though the raw equities of the two hands are identical, one is a profitable call preflop while the other is not.
Although a complex topic, equity realisation is an edge you can use in your games. Having read this article you can now identify the key influences on the equity realisation factors and how this should influence preflop decisions. Making good assumptions and using software to establish strategies will make you a better poker player and more money at the tables. Until next time, good luck!