PokerDeals Risk and Reward Primer

1 Dec
Img

Every single decision you make at the poker tables boils down to risk and reward. It might not always seem that way, especially if you’re clicking buttons, but the fundamentals behind every choice do come down to this. How much do we stand to lose by making this play, and how much do we stand to gain? How often do we think each outcome will occur?

There is a very simple bit of mathematics which is key to answering these common questions in game, which can be used either in calling spots or raising spots, especially with regard to bluffing opportunities. 

Alongside a basic understanding of poker odds and outcomes, and a good ability to put your opponents on an appropriate range, this is really all you will need in the way of maths to start understanding and beating the game, and we’ll run over the details below. 

The Maths - Calling a Bet on the River

Whenever you are committing chips into a pot in poker, there’s some basic mathematics attending your actions. Let’s give a simple example.

You get to the river heads-up and the pot is $10. Your opponent is first to act and bets $10 into the $10 pot, making it $20 in the middle. You have to choose between calling $10, folding and of course raising

Let’s assume that in this case we think our opponent is either bluffing or has a big hand, and that we have a mid-strength value hand.

The question remains: should we call or fold? Let’s look first at the odds we are being laid by our opponent. When we call and lose, we are losing $10, that’s the amount we are risking. When we call and win, we are winning $20, the potential reward. Therefore we are getting direct odds of 2 : 1 on the call

How often do we need to be correct to break even on our call? It is quite simple to turn any ratio into a percentage, we simply divide the amount on the right-hand side (1) by the total of both sides in the ratio (2+1), so the answer is (1 / (2 + 1)) = ⅓ or 33.33%. If we win more often than this, we are making profit and our call is +EV (positive in equity value). 

We can see intuitively that this makes sense, since if we were to play this situation out thousands of times, and we lose $10 two thirds of the time and win $20 one third of the time, overall we will break even and neither lose nor win money. This is known as our break-even point.

If we believe, therefore, that our opponent is bluffing more often than a third of the time, we can comfortably make the call in this spot. Even if we lose the pot 60% of the time, we will still be making profit in the long run, if we played this spot out numerous times. 

For clarity, let’s consider a couple of different sizings. How often do we need our opponent to be bluffing for us to make profit on our bluff-catcher call if he’s bluffing with a half-pot sizing of $5? In this case we are calling $5 to win $15, and the direct odds are 3 : 1. The equation becomes 1 / (3 + 1) = ¼ or 25%. Now we only need to be correct 25% of the time in order to break even on the call, so if we think he is bluffing more often than ¼ of the time, we can make the call

Bear in mind that as villains bet smaller, it is often less likely that they are bluffing, especially in the lower stakes. To some extent you must trust your instincts, and when a bet smells like a value play, it often is!

If our opponent on the other hand over-pots it and bets $20 into the $10 pot, we will need to call $20 to potentially win $30, so the direct odds become 2 : 3. Now we must calculate our break-even point using the following maths: 2 / (3 + 2) = ⅖ or 40%. Now we must be confident our opponent is bluffing with a higher frequency in order for us to make the call

The Maths - Betting as a Bluff on the River

Let’s look at the same scenario in reverse, and imagine we are the villain who was betting full pot on this river. Let’s further imagine that we have nothing, and we are simply bluffing to try to take down the pot. How often does a $10 bluff into a $10 pot need to work in order to break even

Once again the maths is very simple. In this spot we are risking $10 for the chance to win $10. There’s no way to win any more than this, since we are bluffing and when called we will lose the pot. The direct odds are 1 : 1. In this case the maths needed to get a break-even percentage are even simpler, it is simply 1 / (1 + 1) = ½ or 50%. If the bluff works half the time, we will break even on our play in the long run. 

Let’s consider the bluff using different sizings. If we bluff half-pot, this would be $5 into a pot of $10. Now we only need the bluff to work with the following frequency to at least break even: 1 / (2 + 1) = ⅓ or 33.33%. Since we are risking less, the bluff needs to work less often to break even or to turn a profit. Bearing in mind of course smaller bluffs are generally prone to work less often. 

If we bluff an over-pot sizing, say $20 into the $10 pot, now we must use different inputs. We are risking twice as much as we stand to gain if the bluff works. Now the maths equates to 2 / (1 + 2) = ⅔ or 66.66%, so we need the bluff to work two thirds of the time just to break even

Whether we are considering a call vs. a polarized range (either bluffing or a very strong hand) or a bluff versus an opponent, the basic maths is the same, since it boils down to risk evaluated against reward. How much are we risking, how much is the reward, and how often do we think we will win or lose in the spot? 

These are the fundamental questions, and the basic maths behind them is always the same: risk divided by (risk + reward) = our break-even point. 

Why on the River?

We have used the examples above, situated on the river, for one very simple reason - no cards are left to come out on the board. This means that it is the final round of betting, and when we call or fold to that final bet, the hand is concluded. This means that we need only think about direct odds, the ratio we have given above which indicates the ratio between risk and reward

Look out for more PokerDeals Strategy Content coming soon, as we open our strategy section on PokerDeals.com! You can also join us on Discord with this awesome invite link. See you there!

Related News

news-image

Marcelo Simoes Mesqueu Wins 2022 EPT Main Event in Monte Carlo

Simoes has done it, closing out an immense run to top a field of 1,073 runners and taking down the prestigious €5,300 European Poker Tour Monte Carlo Main Event ! In doing so he also becomes the first Brazilian to ever ship an EPT Main , winning the trophy along with a sick €939,840 in prize money. Marcelo Simoes is a big player in Brazil, where his previous best score was $109k for first in a $900 BSOP Main Event back in 2017. With this result being almost 10x bigger, he must be walking on air after his trip to Monaco. The Brazilian player was the only representative of South America featured on the final table, busting out players from across Europe and the United States to secure the win, including Spanish PokerStars Pro Ramon Colillas . How did the action go down? During six-handed play Simoes really shone, building a huge chip lead thanks to consistently aggressive play. Across a hectic half-hour's play, German Erkan Soenmez , French Hugo Pingray , US player Jaime Cervantes and Dragos Trofimov from Moldova were all eliminated, leaving just Simoes and Danish player Morten Hvam to fight it out heads-up. The heads-up itself was also a short one, lasting under an hour. In the final hand, Hvam opened to 500k at 125k/250k (250k bb ante) blinds and faced a 3bet from Simoes to 1.3 million which he called. The flop came down 9 ♦ 7 ♦ 6♠ and Simoes continuation bet a further 1 million . Hvam considered briefly before shoving all-in, a total of 3.4 million chips, with Simoes snap-calling him. Simoes tabled K ♥ K ♦ for the overpair, and all Hvam had to show was the K♣T ♦ for a gutshot with overs. When the board ran out 5♠, J ♦ the Dane was eliminated, and Simoes was crowned EPT Monte Carlo Main Event Champion for 2022. EPT Monte Carlo Main Event 2022 Winners and Payouts Place Player Earnings (USD) 1 Marcelo Simoes Mesqueu $986,832 2 Morten Hvam $592,872 3 Dragos Trofimov $417,469 4 Jaime Cervantes $313,645 5 Hugo Pingray $239,883 6 Erkan Soenmez $175,402 It was a long, hard battle for the Brazilian over five days of intense poker action, and a well-deserved win for this passionate poker player. We are sure that his family and friends back home will be celebrating his win for Brazil for a long time to come. Well played sir. Image courtesy of Pokerstars

10 May
news-image

Daniel Lakerveld Wins Malta Poker Festival Grand Event 2022

He's had a wild ride to get here, and besting a field of 1,014 entrants Daniel Lakerveld has done it, he has gone on to take it down in first place after eliminating Simon Gyorgy heads-up and taking the win in the spring Malta Poker Festival Grand Event. The end game was surprisingly fast and brutal in this one, with players busting out almost ceaselessly late on Sunday evening as they played down to 18 . Our PokerDeals Last Longer winner was finally crowned, as Robert Lim was eliminated in 17th place when his K ♦ T ♦ couldn't hold up against James Clarke's Q♠J♠ . This made Federico Petruzzelli the winner of a free entry to the very next Malta Poker Festival Grand Event (as well as a PokerDeals hoodie of course!). Petruzzelli himself was also sadly eliminated in 13th place when his A♠6♠ could not catch up with Chris da Silva's 9♣9 ♥ . Federico Petruzzelli - PokerDeals Last Longer Winner! Final Day Action at Malta Poker Fest Across those first hours of play, o ne by one the field fell away until it teetered on the very brink of the final table - just one player left to go out for the final table of nine to be formed. It was James Clarke's fate to be the bubble man, although you might argue he made that fate himself. In a limped pot good for 480k , Clarke checked back the 5♣2 ♦ with composure but then on the T ♥ T♠5 ♦ flop the Brit opted to rip almost 4x the pot with his remaining stack, giving Silva, who held T♣7 ♦ , a very easy chip-up with his hand. The 8 ♦ , 4 ♦ runout did absolutely nothing for him, and Clarke walked out as the Final Table bubble, 10th for €5,500 . James Clarke When Polish player Piotr Tuczynski got dealt QcJc in the Big Blind early on in the final table of nine he had two options, facing a 400k min-bet from Chris da Silva . He could flat or he could jam, with his 17bbs . Both fine options. He chose the latter, and he might have regretted it shortly thereafter as he ran straight into da Silva's A ♥ Q ♥ . The Q♠8♣6 ♦ 4 ♥ 6♣ runout could not help him, and he went home in ninth with €6,500 for his troubles. Piotr Tuczynski Nicolay Langfeldt from Norway had just got short. Like really short. With no time to waste, he put his last 425k , less than 2bbs at time time, into the pot with K ♦ J ♦ , met Georgios Ninis' A♠9♠ in the middle, and could not win the standoff, losing as he did on an A ♥ 8 ♦ T ♦ T ♥ 5 ♥ board and exiting in eighth with a €7,500 payday. Nicolay Langfeldt In a similar story, UK player Stephen Kane got his last 4 bigs in facing a min-open from da Silva on the Button and sitting in the Big Blind. He was met with an ace under ace situation - his A♣6 ♦ against da Silva's much prettier A♠T♠ , and the T♣6♣7 ♦ J♠ Q♠ runout was nothing more than a tease. Kane busted in seventh with €9,000 to mop up his tears. Stephen Kane Polish Pawel Zawadowicz was powering through at the end of Day 2, as Chip Leader coming into today, but he had to put his last chips in the middle sometime, and this was the moment, as he looked down at A ♥ K ♥ . A shove, he decided, with just south of 12bbs in his 3.5 million chip stack . He was in the Cutoff , it might certainly look weaker than an open to some players. Lakerveld had too good a hand to think twice, with 8 ♥ 8♠ on the Button. The two players flipped it out, and Lakerveld landed on his feet, with a T ♦ 6♠2♠ flop making him a firm favourite. The turn and river brought nothing but a Jack and a five of ♠ s for the Pole, and the pain of elimination, and he walked out in sixth, taking home €11,000 with him. Pawel Zawadowicz Greek Georgios Ninis had been playing a solid game. He got it in on this final table in an excellent spot, A ♦ 5 ♦ on a 9 ♥ 2♣5♣ 5♠ board against a worse five, exactly what you want. Gyorgi Simon was the other involved, stuck in there with just T ♥ 5 ♥ . Then a miracle - the T♠ ! With very even stacks Ninis was struck out in fifth in a huge near 9 million chip pot. Ninis took away €14,000 in winnings from this one. Georgios Ninis Dutch player Jasper van Moorsel got it in in very fine shape with his J♣J♠ blind vs. blind against Simon Gyorgy's Q♣7 ♥ , but it was his turn to run bad as a Q ♥ in the window followed by a 5♣2 ♥ K♠ K♣ spelled the end for van Moorsel and had him out in fourth, cashing for €18,000 . Jasper van Moorsel When Simon Gyorgy put his 10 million stack in the middle from the Button and it folded to British player Chris da Silva's Big Blind , da Silva decided this was the spot to take a stand, and called it off with A ♥ 3♠ . Gyorgy showed down 4♣4♠ for the best hand preflop, and just to make the point, boated up on a Q♣8♣4 ♦ 8 ♦ 6 ♦ board runout. Da Silva, a live Pokerstars Pro, has to settle for third place this time, and €25,000 . Chris da Silva There had been some talk of a deal at three, and at two players remaining, but in the end no deal was struck, and Hungarian Simon Gyorgy would square up against Dutch player Daniel Lakerveld heads-up, playing for the trophy and a final pay-jump of €28,000 . The heads-up was, like the final table itself, to be relatively short-lived and dramatic, with the two players entering level 34 with roughly even stacks at 25-26 million apiece. With blinds at 300k/600k Lakerveld min-opened and Gyorgy called to see a T♠5 ♦ 3 ♥ flop, on which Lakerveld continuation bet 600k and Gyorgy called. The 8♣ turn was checked by both players, but on the 5♠ river something overtook both players. First of all Gyorgy checked, and Lakerveld overbet, 3.5 million. Then Gyorgy after the tiniest of hesitations jammed it in, to be immediately called. Gyorgy revealed K♠5 ♥ for trips, but Lakerveld had the best trips of all, holding A ♥ 5♣ . Simon Gyorgy - runner up Thus this incredible Grand Event was brought to its conclusion in fitting style with an epic cooler, Gyorgy departed €43,000 richer as runner up, and Daniel Lakerveld shipped the trophy, the €71,000 and the glory! Daniel Lakerveld - Malta Poker Festival Grand Event Champion 2022! Malta Poker Festival 2022 Final Table Results Place Name Country Prize 1 Daniel Lakerveld Netherlands €71,000 2 Simon Gyorgy Hungary €43,000 3 Chris da Silva United Kingdom €25,000 4 Jasper van Moorsel Netherlands €18,000 5 Georgios Ninis Greece €14,000 6 Pawel Zawadowicz Poland €11,000 7 Stephen Kane United Kingdom €9,000 8 Nicolay Langfeldt Norway €7,500 9 Piotr Tuczynski Poland €6,500 We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in the lovely land of Malta covering this series for you, and the vibe has been excellent throughout. Good weather, good people, and oh-such-good games! We'll be back to do it all again soon, and we hope you will too. Remember to catch our live updates for the next big tournament. In the meantime, if you'd like to touch base or hang out, please connect with us over on the PokerDeals Discord channel. May the poker gods shine on you, and best of luck. by Lucky Luke

2 May
news-image

Sparks Fly in the PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown

You have to hand it to PokerGO , the big events and ultimate entertainment just keep on flowing! It was a stroke of genius to come up with the format for this latest event, offering spots to the top of the PokerGO Tour leaderboard in a $25k buy-in Heads-up event and then filling out the remaining spots with big names from the game and entertaining "poker celebs”. Players were divided into four sections of eight identified by suits of the deck, and here's a quick breakdown of who made it through. Image courtesy of PokerGo This game was played for keeps, one match only, no re-matches, and $25k on the line. Amongst the heroic contenders eliminated in this first brutal round were the legendary Shaun Deeb , Jared Bleznick , arch-wizard Phil Galfond and staunch battleaxe Scott Seiver , amongst many other worthy contenders. Hellmuth and Persson Face Off We also lost, amidst a lot of bad language, on the feature table, the entertainer himself, Phil Hellmuth . Mr Positivity did lose his cool at the very end as his stack got fully mangled by opponent Eric Persson , and it was quite the psychological battle. Persson pulled no punches in talking foul to Phil , eventually earning himself a warning, but at one point both players were warned about their behaviour and language. Not quite what you might want to see on the feature table of a headline event, but entertaining in its own way, and not entirely unexpected in a clash between these two fiery and strong-minded characters. This leaves Daniel Negreanu as clearly the most legendary player remaining in the running, although some incredibly strong opponents also progressed to the next round such as Eric Seidel, Sean Winter and Alex Foxen . Check out this and more in the coverage from the day on YouTube. The reporting does a great job of roaming across the tables, and you can see all your favourite characters sweat it out in what were truly engrossing heads-up matches. Tune in to the PokerDeals Discord to tell us about what you thought of these epic confrontations! Well done PokerGO , and do please keep serving up these huge events!

22 Apr

Latest Promotions

View All

Pokerstars Deposit Bonus

$ 600

- OFFER -

Partypoker First Deposit Bonus

$ 600

- OFFER -

Play Now

Red Star Deposit Bonus!

$ 2,000

- OFFER -

Play Now