Running Below Expectation

Fallen Runner

Every time you get in Aces versus Kings and win you are running above expectation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Every time you get in Aces versus Kings and win you are running above expectation. And yet we can sometimes feel entitled to winning these all-in confrontations.

All. The. Time.

If you're reading this article and wondering how we are are running above expectation when the best hand wins, let me explain.

Let's say we shove Aces for 5k and our opponent calls 5k with Kings. (For this example we'll take out the blinds and antes.) We expect to win 5k a large percentage of the time (81.94% in fact). But when we do we're winning 100% of the pot, not the expected amount of 81.94%.

On average, we're expected to win:

5,000 * 81.94% = 4,097 chips

But we didn't, we won 5,000 chips which is 903 chips more!!!

Hence we're running above expectation. We're supposed to lose 18.06% of the time and it's these times that seem to linger longer in the memory. If we expect to win 4,097 chips in this example, when we lose 5,000 chips that's a huge 9,097 chip difference! Yikes! The brain seems to have a great way of remembering the times when things went wrong, and rarely remembering the times when things went well.

Think back to your last few sessions. How many times did you get lucky? How many times did things go your way?

Now think about how many times you got unlucky and things didn't go your way. I bet the negative far outweighs the positive, right? (If not, then I didn't actually bet anything real... it's just a figure of speech)

In tournament poker you will run worse than you ever thought imaginable. If you would like to see the impact variance can have on tournament poker then I recommend checking out Poker Dope. I'll probably write another article in the future about using and interpreting the information from their tournament variance calculator, but essentially it will show you how much variance affects you in the short-term.

And it's the short-term effects of variance that can affect us most. In the short-term you will win or lose whether you're the best player in the world, the worst player in the world or somewhere in between. In the long-term, though, if you are a winning player you will win. And if you're a losing player then obviously you will lose.

How long the long-term is can be difficult to say, especially in tournament poker, but rest assured that if you are a good player you will win in the long run. I know it can be tough when you lose with the best hand time and time again, but you are strong enough to get through it.

Good luck out there, catch you next week!

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