Realizing Your Equity in Poker

We all know the concept of equity in poker and the more you have of it, the greater chance you have of winning the hand on average. So when we hold A♠K♠ on a A♥T♠6♠ it’s a turbo all-in as we have around 60%+ equity vs most ranges. Poker equity calculators like Flopzilla and Combonator can help us out here, but what they can’t tell us is the best way to realize that equity; choosing the most +EV line by combining the power of fold equity, position and your equity in the pot (or pot equity).

The above AKs example was fairly obvious, but most of the time poker has a lot of middle ground and thus making the best line unclear. In a minute I’ll show you a 3-step guide to help determine the best line, but first I’ll share how I refer to different amounts of equity:

What Is Good Equity In Poker?

• ‘Marginal’ equity: 5-7 outs – Such as Overcards, 1 overcard + 2 back door draws, a gutshotand an overcard, split pair etc.

• ‘Good’ equity: 8-12 outs – Such as a Flush draw, OESD, Overcards and a gutshot etc.

• ‘All-in’ equity:* 13+ outs – Such as a combo Flush/straight draw, Overcards and a draw etc.

*The reason it’s generally a get it ‘All-in’ scenario is because vs most ranges your opponent can have,

you’ll have 52%+ equity with 13 outs (using the trusty 4-2 rule)

Three Question To Ask About Your Poker Equity

1. How much equity in the pot do I have? This will play a key roll in determining how you play the hand.

2. How much fold equity do I have?

3. How do I best realize my pot equity vs THIS opponent, his tendencies and his range?

Lets examine a couple of examples where we answer to the ^ to help us play hands better.

Ex 1: You called a small raise with 6♠7♠ on the button vs a 42/28 sticky, aggro fish who opened UTG.

The Heads-up Flop is T♠4♠2♦.So using our 3 step plan we’d ask ourselves:

1. How much equity in the pot do I have? Good. At least 9 outs to almost certainly the best hand.

2. How much fold equity do I have? Not much unfortunately. We have position, but this guy likes to bet a lot and not fold. We do have implied odds though.

3. How do I best realize my equity vs this guy? Vs fish I like a min raise here in position. You are almost guaranteed to see turn and river for that price and occasionally get outright folds on the flop.

Ex 2: You are in BB with A♣2♣. You call a Button raise from a mass-tabling reg and go heads up to the 4♣5♦9♥ Flop.

Our pot equity is marginal and were OOP, however we are facing a wide Button range vs a mass tabling reg who likes to cbet, so our fold equity should be decent. Our hand is deceptively strong too. We have a gutshot with the 3, a back door flush draw and an overcard Ace. Plus we can represent a 6, 7 or an 8. So our hand effectively falls into the ‘good’ equity category. The high fold equity in this spot compensates for the somewhat marginal equity on this board, vs this opponent. We could donk bet, but I like a check-raise to pick up the cbet money too.

Ex 3: You open A♦5♦ from the Cutoff and the tight reg in the BB calls. You cbet a 8♦5♣2♥ Flop and he calls. The turn is the 3♣. This opponent is fairly fit-or-fold (in that his overall fold to cbet is around 60%, likely even higher out of position), so he has something here.

Our pot equity increased with the gutshot, but our fold equity is pretty low. It’s a dry-ish board vs a tight reg who folds a lot. If we give him a range of say 22, 55, 88, 8x suited, and 99-JJ then they aren’t folding here. It’s best in my opinion to check back here. It would suck if we got raised, so by checking back we can realize our equity, plus if a Q or a K fall we can represent those cards and raise if he half- pot block bets us. Remember just because you checked the turn, it doesn’t mean you gave up on the pot.

Fake Equity In Poker

You may have heard that term used otherwise, but I think it describes perfectly what they are; Fake. They are outs… but they aren’t. We used them in the Ex2 and Ex3 above. Don’t forget to add them to your pot equity; they can often make a ‘marginal’ equity spot into a ‘good’ one.


Equity and aggression are normally talked about in tandem, but we don’t always have to apply aggression with big bets or indeed at all. This is where position comes in handy. As a general rule, the stronger your opponents range the more passively you’re forced to play to realize your pot equity. Without much fold equity, we only have pot equity and this is best realized with position.

Ex: You isolated a MP limp on the button with T♦J♦. To our surprise the Nit in the BB (with a 3b of 3%) 3bets us. We go 3-way to the 8♦9♣K♥ flop. He barrels into two people… Raising here is a waste of money IMO, he won’t be folding and you’ll be getting it in as a big underdog. Worse still if you raise big enough and he shoves you have probably the odds to call it off. On the flip side, the more disguised your hand the more chance you have of it being paid off. So straight draws (like above) are better than flush draws that might slow your opponent(s) down.

Out of Position Equity Versus LAGs

I’m just going to straight up say it, it will be very challenging for you to effectively realize your equity out of position. Thats why playing out of position against good players sucks. The check-calling game vs anyone is generally a bad way to realize equity, and especially vs a (decent) LAG. This line plays right into his hands. You will be barrelled off your equity probably every time. It’s a personal preference, but I ditch small pairs and marginal equity vs a LAG when OOP, but play good equity very aggressively. So if I raise A♥J♥ UTG vs a button LAG on a T♥9♥6♣ board, a giant check-raise followed by a shove is fine by me. If he snaps me off with a weak K9o, well guess what, now I’ll play AT that way. LAGs don’t often have strong ranges, so I don’t mind getting LAGgy myself with good equity or better when OOP.

By the way, I like to use my 3-step guide before I raise or call preflop. It’s all about forward planning.

Cinch (author)

Edited by (Paul Ratchford)

Be sure to check out Exploitive No Limit Holdem for in depth strategies to improve your winrate at the tables.


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