If you’re a solid poker player and you’re able to guess what your opponent has accurately, that skill is a valuable asset at the tables. So, what if you could translate that skill into actual dollars? In this article, we will be discussing G-Bucks, which is a system for figuring out your equity in a given hand. The calculations are based on both your cards and your opponents’. Figuring out and mastering this system takes time and effort, and you have to be decent at math (or at least be open to learning it). So, if numbers and calculations sound like something you’re interested in, then let’s dive right into this complex concept.
When it comes to playing poker, most of us will think about strategy regarding hands played and money spent in the pot. You are thinking about what you have, or could have, and comparing it to your opponents to see if you should raise, call or fold. Let’s see how G-Bucks can help you with that…
What are G-Bucks?
Technically speaking, G-Bucks are imaginary dollars that you figure out based on your hand’s equity. The thinking is that you should be evaluating your opponent’s hands all the time. This means you should be able to figure out a dollar amount that you will win or lose in the long run. Calculating your equity over a number of hands is the key to getting your equations just right. Poker is usually a marathon, not a sprint, so you should be strategizing accordingly.
The way that G-Bucks work is that you compare your hand to your opponent’s range of hands. You could go the opposite way and give yourself a range and the other player a definite hand. However, that will require that you are spot-on in your analysis. For beginners and those who have not yet honed their predictive skills, it’s much better to give the range to your opponent.
Once you have set a range of hands (for example bottom pair, suited connectors, and flush draws), then you can calculate the equity that your hand has, so you will know if you should call. After crunching the numbers, you should see a net difference that will tell you how to play the hand.
Where to Begin
The first player to demonstrate the G-Bucks technique was Phil Galfond, who took another similar concept called Sklansky Dollars (we’ll go into that in a second) and expanded on it to make it more applicable to most players. His explanations were rather long-winded and full of jargon, so we’ll try to make it simpler and easier to understand. With that in mind, calculating G-Bucks (or Sklansky Dollars) is some high-level poker strategy. Think twice before attempting it if you are new to the game.
If you want a layman’s version of G-Bucks, you are essentially figuring out how often your hand will win against a range of hands. For example, your cards could beat three out of five possible hands, making it a net positive to call. Conversely, your hand may only win against one out of five, which indicates a fold. G-Bucks gives you a dollar amount to pin to this average, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
The origins of G-Bucks are deeply rooted in Sklansky Dollars, which is to say that it would not exist if Sklansky didn’t. The original formula was proposed by professional poker player David Sklansky.
In this version, you are comparing your hand to your opponents, but in both cases, you are assuming a definitive hand on his part. Thus, to truly get accurate with Sklansky Dollars, you have to be able to narrow your opponent down to one or two hands and then guess correctly. As a result, this formula is fantastic for post-game analysis but can be ineffective when in the moment.
Otherwise, the calculations are almost the same. The concept is identical, which is why we said that G-Bucks couldn’t exist without Sklansky. If you want to master your equity calculation game, then we suggest that you bone up on Sklansky as well as G-Bucks so you can utilize both to your advantage. However, if you had to pick one, then G-Bucks are much better overall.
Here is where we get into the nitty-gritty. Calculating equity is something that many poker players have not mastered, mostly because it’s hard to do. If you play online, there are equity calculators that make everything easier, but you still have to be able to narrow down an accurate range of hands. After all, calculating hands that probably aren’t going to come in will not help you get a precise G-Buck reading.
With that in mind, let’s break down the concept into cold hard numbers.
We highly suggest that you use a poker calculator to figure out these equations unless you are crazy good at doing them in your head. If that is the case, we still suggest that you compare your numbers to a calculator as they will be much more accurate in the long run. Some great poker calculators are available, check this list.
To accurately gauge your G-Bucks, you will need to do three things. First, you have to work out an accurate range of hands for your opponent. If you are struggling with this, then you will want to spend some time analyzing your hands postgame. This will help you to build up a good foundation.
Second, you plug your hand and your opponent’s range into a poker calculator to get the equity of both of your hands. A good calculator for measuring range is Pokerstove, as it will give you the option to plug in multiple hands.
Finally, you multiply the pot size by your equity to work out how much money you stand to win on average.
As with any poker calculation, you are working on averages, rather than absolutes. Thus, you will want to call if your percentage is high enough to warrant a win in most situations. Because you cannot know for sure what will happen (or what your opponent has), you have to make decisions without knowing all of the facts.
For that reason, it’s always best to give your opponent a realistic range. Until you can narrow down his playing strategy and understand his methods, you will have to assume that he will call or raise with more hands than he realistically would. As you progress and test out G-Bucks on the table, you should be able to refine your estimation. The best way to figure out how you’re doing is to compare his hand to the range you gave him. Post game analysis is incredibly important, and you should be doing it both on winning and losing hands.
While some of you may be able to understand this concept abstractly, we understand that most of you will need a couple of examples to fully grasp what we’re talking about. So, with that in mind, let’s go over some practice hands so you can see G-Bucks in action.
Let’s say that you are betting pre-flop. Your hand is a QJs, and your opponent raises $10 to make the pot $25. In this example, let’s say that he is a tight aggressive player, and will only raise with a high pair or suited connectors.
Thus, our first step is to determine our range. To keep things simple, we’ll limit his range to five different hands. They will be QQ, KK, AA, AKs, KQs.
Once we know the range, we will have to calculate our equity compared to that range. To help you understand the concept better, we’ll break this down piece by piece. To do that, let’s compare our equity against each of his possible hands.
- QJs vs QQ: 15% (85% for our opponent)
- QJs vs KK: 18% (82%)
- QJs vs AA: 18% (82%)
- QJs vs AKs: 37% (63%)
- QJs vs KQs: 28% (72%)
As soon as we have the equities of each hand, we will figure out the average of the range. To do that, we have to multiply the percentage by the number of combinations that that hand has. So, for example, a pair of aces has six possible combinations, making the equation: .82 x 6 =4.92
We do that for all of them and we wind up with this.
- QQ: .85 x 3=2.55
- KK: .82 x 6=4.92
- AA: .82 x 6=4.92
- AKs: .63 x 4=2.52
- KQs: .72 x 3=2.16
Once those calculations are done, then we sum the totals and divide by the number of combinations, as follows:
2.55 + 4.92 + 4.92 + 2.52 + 2.16
3 + 6 + 6 + 4 + 3
Which equals 17.07/22, or 78% equity. That will leave us with only 22% equity.
So, if the pot will be $35 if we call, then our equity stake is $7.70. Because it costs us $10 to call, our G-Bucks calculation will be the amount being called minus the equity. That will leave us with -$2.30. That means that we should fold.
As you can see, the process is rather complicated unless you can use a program that will calculate the percentage of the entire range all at once. However, knowing our G-Bucks tells us that we have a higher chance of losing or winning if we call, which can save us a lot of money in the long run.
Where things get complicated is if you have to compare a wider range. For example, if your opponent has ten potential hands or more, then calculating all of that will take some time. Doing it all on the fly means that you have to be quick with your numbers.
Overall, G-Bucks can be incredibly valuable, especially if you can read the other players and narrow their range. Translating your equity into a dollar amount is useful as it gives you a better perspective of what you stand to gain or lose. It will take awhile to learn how to implement this strategy on the fly, but once you do you will be much better off.