One easy poker pitfall for our feeble human minds is developing a sense of entitlement. This becomes especially true when we are running bad. Imagine you have been super card dead for an hour straight, and any time you do get a playable hand you completely miss the flop. At last, you are dealt AK, raise it up, and get one caller. You flop an ace… FINALLY!
It is natural to feel entitled to this pot. You have been waiting all this time and now, FINALLY, it is YOUR turn to win a pot. It might sound harsh, but this is exactly how a losing player thinks about poker. I have thought about poker this way, for sure, but never when I am on my A-game. Unless you flop the absolute unbeatable nuts, you will always end up losing the hand a certain percentage of the time. If you let yourself feel entitled to this pot, you are much more likely to feel emotional pain and go on tilt if you lose.
With this in mind, we must realize that when we DO win a hand that was not the unbeatable nuts, we have ‘run well’. In this exact instance we won this hand 1/1 or 100% of the time. On average we will win with some frequency less than 100%.
A simple no-limit example is AA v KK all-in preflop for 100 big blinds. AA is an 82% favorite, so the theoretical expected value for AA in this hand is
EV = .82*100-.18*100 = +64bb
When AA does win the hand, he wins 100bb and ran 36bb over expectation. He ‘ran well’.
The same idea can be applied to many different hand types and hand strengths. The following empirical data is drawn from my personal database of over 800,000 limit hold’em hands. I have included the ‘won hand percentage’ at a variety of points in the hand to show how the likelihood of winning decreases as you get closer to showdown.
Hand on Flop: Middle Pair
Overall won hand percentage: 64%
Won hand when we see the turn: 58%
Won hand when we see the river: 55%
Won hand when we see the showdown: 52%
Hand on Flop: Top Pair
Overall won hand percentage: 75%
Won hand when we see the turn: 70%
Won hand when we see the river: 66%
Won hand when we see the showdown: 62%
Hand on Flop: Pocket Aces
Overall won hand percentage: 82%
Won hand when we see the turn: 80%
Won hand when we see the river: 76%
Won hand when we see the showdown: 71%
Hand on Flop: Set
Overall won hand percentage: 90%
Won hand when we see the turn: 88%
Won hand when we see the river: 86%
Won hand when we see the showdown: 83%
As you can see, hands as powerful as sets and pocket aces hold up fairly well, but still no where close to 100% of the time.
The really important group of stats to understand in this bunch is for top pair. It is especially risky to feel entitled to winning this type of hand, both because these hands happen fairly often AND because they are very vulnerable. If you are feeling extra entitled, you might even expect to win the hand while getting paid off all the way to the showdown. Realize that when you do get to the showdown, you will not be winning significantly more than half the time.
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