In this article, we’re going to tackle the topic of equity and realization. It’s an important subject since it touches every poker hand you’ve ever been involved in. So, let’s not waste any time, and let’s get started.

The Ace of Spades (left) and the four Kings from a traditional deck of cards lay on top of a pile of blue, red and black poker chips.
Equity and equity realization are important concepts as they touch every single poker hand you’ll ever play.

What is Equity?

First of all, we’d better define the terms involved. Raw equity is the expected share of the pot, in percentage terms, that a hand would win if it went to showdown. You know when you’re watching a poker game on TV and they show the percentages in the corner? That’s equity. However, when your opponent’s hand is unknown, you are actually considering your hand’s equity against your opponent’s range.

Here are some common examples of hand equity:

Your HandOpponent Hand Your Hand Equity
A-K suited2-250%
Q-QA-K offsuit55%
A-K offsuitA-J offsuit70-75%
T-TA-T offsuit70%
Flopped flush drawFlopped top pair35-40%
Flopped top pairTwo overcards75%

Equity Realization

What about equity realization? Well, these percentages are just theoretical numbers. In reality, you’re going to have to deal with players trying to bluff you or other events. You may never actually reach a showdown. Equity realization factors in all the postflop variables and turns the raw equity value into an adjusted figure.

How to Approximate a Hand’s Equity

Sadly, this is far from an exact science since poker is a game of incomplete information. As you will never know your opponent’s exact cards, the best you can hope for is to run a calculation against their range. Regardless, let’s take a look at how to estimate your hand’s equity.

Assuming you don’t have access to a calculator, you can approximate the numbers on the fly. Take the number of outs, or cards left in the deck, that will complete your hand and likely win the pot. Multiply this by 4 (on the flop) or 2 on the turn.

Let’s say we’ve flopped a flush draw and figure that we’ll win the pot against our opponent’s range should we hit. With 9 cards in the deck to make our flush, that’s approximately 9*4 = 36% equity.

We can now use this information to determine how to progress in the hand. Let’s say our opponent has shoved, and it’s $120 for us to call. The total pot size is $250. We need to divide the bet size ($120) by the total pot plus our call ($120+$250 = $370) to reveal how much equity we need in order to continue.

$120 / $370 = 0.324

That’s 32.4% equity required in order to continue. Since our calculator shows that we have 36%, a call is therefore justified here.

How to Estimate a Hand’s Equity Realization

Calculating the exact realization of a hand’s equity is basically impossible. All we can hope to do is make a best guess. If our raw equity is 30% and we have estimated that we will realize 75% of it, the calculation is simple:

0.75 * 30 = 22.5% equity realization.

There are five key factors that influence the amount of equity a hand can realize, and, consequently, our estimation. They are as follows:

Position

Playing in position is always much easier than out of position. With the additional information at your disposal when you’re the last to act in the hand, it’s only natural that you will make better bets and bluffs. Therefore, you will realize more equity in the long run.

Range

Whichever player has the stronger range can afford to be more aggressive. If you are in the Big Blind and defending, for instance, you’d rather be against a button raise than one from the player under the gun. The stronger the range, the better the chance of forcing the opponent off a hand, thus realizing equity.

Strength

Fairly obviously, the stronger a hand is, the more equity it is going to realize. However, other playability factors also come into the equation too. For instance, a suited hand will realize much more equity due to its ability to make flushes. Similarly, the closer the cards are together, the more likely they are to realize equity.

Stacks

As a rule, the greater the Stack-to-Pot (STP) ratio, the more equity the hand of the player in position will realize. As a reminder, the STP ratio is calculated on a street-by-street basis. To calculate it, all you have to do is divide the pot by the shortest stack involved in the hand.

Ability

The skill of your opponent, as well as your own, naturally makes a big difference to equity realization. If you don’t c-bet often enough or apply pressure in other situations, then you won’t take down as many pots as you should. Similarly, understanding when to call, fold, or raise makes a big difference.

The Impact of Equity Realization

Understanding this concept properly can help to improve your game’s profitability as it will make you think about poker in a more advanced way and steer you away from making negative expectation plays. However, like everything else, being knowledgeable in only one concept is not enough to turn one pro. To become better, and to play better, you must know about other concepts as well, such as Fold Equity, Squeeze Play, and Strategies for 3-Bet Pots vs Single-Raised Pots, to name a few.

Most importantly, you need to practice! Sign up for a free account with Natural8 and practice calculating equity realization using the freerolls and low-stake tournaments. Sooner or later, you will be able to do it as naturally as breathing.