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/Feb/2013

ALLIN EV - AN INDICATOR FOR LUCK?

By: DivorcedDuck @ 11:15 (EST) / 501 / Comment ( 10 )

A lot of poker players use trackers and there are some very good reasons to do so. The by far two most important features to most players is the Head Up Display (HUD) and to keep track of their records.

As poker players love to brag with their achievements and in the net nothing is real without a picture, players post their graphs showing their results created by the trackers. Actually there are two major tracking softwares out there which are used by almost all serious players, Holdem Manager 2 (HEM2) and Pokertracker 4 (Pt4).

Years ago, when Pokertracker was along with Poker Ace HUD the only serious provider of tracking software, they developed a statistic called Allin EV. This stat gave you the possibility to display the difference between your real winnings and the winnings you would expect to have based on the equity when beeing allin in a hand - no more no less.

So why do I write a blog about it? - Because this stat has become a luck indicator and it also has become very popular. It´s not used by Pokertracker only but also by Holdem Manger and it has become a standard statistical value for winning graphs. You see it almost every time someone posts a winning graph and also you see a lot of discussion about that. Running over EV, running under EV, especially the last one has become a synonym for beeing in a downswing. To be honest I did this myself, but is it true?

Can you really say I got unlucky or I´m in a downswing just by the look at this graph?

To answer the question if the Allin EV is beeing an indicator of beeing lucky or not you have to know what it exactly is and how it works. So lets have a look behind that one!

Allin EV calculates the equity in any situation two or more players went allin and give this equity a monetary value based on the total pot at the point players went allin. For example we have a pot of $10 and two players go allin. Both players have the same equity as they are flipping. So the expected value for both players would be $5. Player 1 is winning the flip. He now got the whole $10 pot and Player 2 got nothing. Player 1 has now compared to his expected winnings an overlay of $5 and Player 2 is $5 below his expectations.

So far it seems to be easy and also so far it seems really to show how lucky one was. But most of the time we see this, the games played weren´t heads up and a lot of pots were played multiway. In addition to that players have different stack sizes and so it happens that a player is already allin on flop but two players have still chips to play the turn. How to handle those situations?

Let´s do an example. Player one is a shorty and goes allin on flop. When he did that he had an equity of 40%. Player 2 and Player 3 saw the turn card and the turn changed the equity a lot. Player 2 and 3 go allin with Player 2 as a favorite of 85% to win. So how would you calculate the expected value for that? Would you use the point were the last action happened or would you calculate it from the first allin? Would you may even do both, calculating from the first allin for Player 1 and from the 2nd allin for Player 2 and 3, but what about the part of the pot for the players 2 and 3 which was already allin on flop? - Guess you got the dilemma.

The concept of Allin EV was created for heads up. In fact HEM2 and Pt4 today both calculate the Allin EV for multiway pots too, but they do it in different ways. Pt4 calculates from the point of the last action and HEM2 uses the point of the first allin as base for calculating. There are good reasons for both but you have to know and what is more important, the graphs of HEM2 and Pt4 aren´t compareable.

So the first thing to notice is that the word Allin EV is misleading. It doesn´t show the expected value but equity adjusted allin winnings. The second thing to notice is that the concept behind is made for heads up play and it doesn´t work well in multiway situations. Third thing to notice is that trackers calculate the Allin EV in different ways, which of course leads to different results. But what about the interpretation? - Does it make sense to use that stat for making a statement like I´m running under EV and this means I´m on a downswing?

The answer is pretty easy but let´s have a look behind the scenes first and analyse first what a downswing really is. In poker variance is something which has huge influence. Variance is the randomness of the dealt cards. When dealing is really random there are no patterns and there´s no balance between luck or unluck. you can loose 10 flips in a row and it will happen. You can loose 3 times followed by 9 wins and it will happen. It´s completely random and short term there can be a huge discrepancy between the result and the expectations. On the long run this discrepancy can become even bigger and will do so in absolute numbers, but relative to the whole count of tries it will be closer and closer to the expectation. That´s what math nerds call the law of big numbers and what is a proof for randomness.

The variance has influence on each card dealed. Not only on the board and on the outcome of a race but also on the hole cards you got dealed and the hole cards of villains too. This means a downswing will have different kind of appearences. One will be for example to get AA more often in early positions were it´s unlikely to get paid big but to get set mined a lot. Another thing could be to get KK and villain has AA when sitting in the blinds. Those things we as poker players call setup and there are endless possibilites for that. The hands are set up and the outcome is predefined. No way out no matter on which side you are. Variance will decide wether you are the one with AA or KK.  Another thing would be for example making an allin call on river versus a specific villain range justified by the pot odds. The call could be correct but for the Allin EV it´s allways all or nothing as the equity on river must be 100% or 0%. I could give you many many more examples for that, but I hope the picture is already visible to you.

Variance has way more influence on the game, than the Allin EV can show. As a fact the Allin EV show only a very tiny aspect of variance. Situations which are graphed by Allin EV can be graphed positive and be negative in reality too. For example you made a bad call versus villains range and he showed bottom of his range to your favor. The other way round of course it´s possible too. So human error can´t be graphed by Allin EV. There´s no indicator which tells you if the graph goes up or down by human error, by edge or by variance.

To sum it up the graph has no real value. It´s by far the most useless thing in poker and it shouldn´t have any influence on your game or on your mindset. A lot of players search for excuses. They complain about running bad and when whining about the normal beats they show their graphs as proof and tell the whole world how far they are under EV. The truth is, variance can be very tough. You will experience sessions when it seems you always run into a better hand no matter what you hold. The same session you can be running over EV, just simply by beeing lucky sucking one time villains AA with your set of kings. It doesn´t change the outcome of the session or the point you got unlucky and run into a lot of setups which had no big influence on your Allin EV graph.

So the next time you run under EV don´t use it as an excuse for bad play or as a proof for a downswing. The influence of variance is so much more than that and mostlikely the truth is that you aren´t in a downsing but playing not the best poker you could. And that leads to my last point to mention in this blog... The best solution to protect your bankroll against variance is a decent winrate. So working on your game and not caring about a thing you have no influence on is by far the best you can do!

As always I wish you good luck at the felts!

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