EV = Expected Value.
In Poker, It Depends
The common theory among EV poker players is that as long as you always make the correct EV decision, you will be profitable over the long haul. On the surface, this makes perfect sense. Any poker player—or any human being for that matter—would want to be in situations where they are over 50% to make money. As long as you keep putting yourself in those mathematically advantageous situations, you should end up profitable. This is mostly true, but like everything else in the game of poker, not everything is black and white. The best answer to any poker question can be summed up in two words: It depends.
Some readers will scoff at that notion immediately. They are so obsessed and brainwashed with EV that they secretly wear EV capes under their shirts. If you say anything anti-EV to one of them, they will place their fists on their hips, rip their shirts open to reveal the large “EV” lettering on their red cape, and stick their chest out. They might even say, “I’m an EV Guy. How dare you tread on my territory? If you don’t believe in this theory wholeheartedly, I shall strike you down and banish you from the poker community! Be gone!”
In other words, if you ever debate with “EV Guy,” you better be ready for battle. The best approach is simply not to get involved. Just like a political debate, you will NOT change their minds. This brings me to a recent Facebook poker forum debate that I posted. Here’s the situation. You sit down with $500 at a 2/5 No Limit game. You plan on being there for eight hours and you’re less than one hour into the session. So far, you’re even. Across the table from you is one of the fishiest poker players you have ever seen, and you have seen him before. He also plays an average of eight hours, and he also has $500 in front of him. Now comes the fun part.
The hypothetical situation—and it’s very hypothetical—is that he shoves pre-flop and you somehow know that you have a 60% advantage. The cards and the pre-flop action are not the points here. The important points are that he’s super fishy, you’re in your first hour of an eight-hour session, and you have a 60% advantage for all your chips.
EV Guy will always call here, but that’s a black and white call. If you look a little closer, you will find that folding is the correct play. The reasoning is simple. Since this is a super fishy player, do you really want to risk all of your chips on what is basically a coin flip? If you lose, then you have to rebuy. From there, you have to double-up just to get back to even. Since this is a super fishy player and you have at least seven hours of play remaining, the odds are very good that you will be able to take his chips over the next seven hours. Even if that weren’t the case, the odds of you finding yourself in a better than 60% spot against any other player over the next 7+ hours are very high. This is called chip preservation, and as most true poker professionals know, the key to winning in poker is not losing. This doesn’t pertain to the young gun that makes a boatload and then goes broke three months later. This refers to the professional poker player who has been sustainable grinding higher for at least a decade and never goes broke.
If you don’t believe in the answer above, consider the following. A Facebook friend of mine is also good friends with Doyle Brunson. This friend was so frustrated with EV Guy replies that he contacted Doyle and presented the question. Doyle stated that the correct play is to fold because you will outplay that fishy opponent later. So, the next time you’re in a situation where you must decide whether or not to flip a coin (with a very slight edge) versus a fishy poker player, fold. Wait for a better spot.