Basic Equations of Poker (Simple!!!)

Up to now most of our blogs have been about overcoming obstacles, introspection, or tales of personal growth. I'm going to take a bit of a departure from that, and talk about the one thing that brought together the Thirst Lounge in the first place. Poker!


One of the questions I get asked most while streaming is, "Matt, how do I study poker?" I usually tell people to review their hands analytically. But how does one even properly review their hands? A lot of people think that you need to be a math wiz to be good at poker. You don't. Most of the math in poker is quite simple, and I wanted to share with you the 3 basic equations that you should know to take you poker game to the next level. These 3 equations took me from being someone who casually grinded small stakes online poker to a bonafide professional. The major 3 concepts are: pot odds, minimum defense frequency, and bluffing frequency. You can use these concepts to review your game off the table, and strengthen you intuition for the game. If you're more of a visual learner I go over all 3 of the concepts and equations on our twitch channel, and you can see the video of that here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/454041960?filter=archives&sort=time


-Pot Odds: Pot odds refer to the relationship between the size of the pot and the size of the bet. Pot Odds can be expressed as a ratio of (Size of the Pot):(Size to Call). If your opponent bet $10 into a $10 pot then the ratio would be 20:10, or 2:1. In a percentage 2:1=33%. That 33% correlates to the amount of equity you need to continue in the hand. For example, on the turn if your opponent bets $10 into a $10 pot then you need 33% equity with your hand to continue. So if you have a weak flush draw where your odds of hitting a flush on the river are only 18% then you would not be getting the right pot odds to call that bet. Most of this stuff is intuitive. Most people inherently understand that the bigger their opponents bet the worse odds they are getting, but it's important to know the specifics so that when you review your hands you have a proper idea of how to evaluate different spots.

-Minimum Defense Frequency: Minimum Defense Frequency, or MDF, refers to how much of your range you have to defend against a particular bet size. Many people only think about their specific hand while playing poker, but it's important to think about your range which is all of the hands that you could have in a given situation.

The equation is MDF=(pot size/pot size+bet size). So if your opponent bets $10 into a $10 dollar pot then you would calculate (10/10+10)=50%. This 50% represents the amount of your range that you would need to defend with so that you could not be exploited. Why is MDF so important? Well, let's say that on the river I bet $10 into a $10 pot, and instead of defending with 50% of your range, you only defended with 25% of your range. If you did that I would be able to relentlessly bluff you because you are folding too much of your range. Using MDF gives you a general guideline of how much to defend versus bets, and if you don't defend as much as you should a good player will recognize that, and bluff you continuously. Again, if you want to see how I use this concept in practice you can check out our twitch VOD.

-Times you shouldn't use MDF: MDF mostly applies to the turn and the river, and much less so to the flop. As an example, if you're playing in a tournament and the Button opens to 2.5bb and you make the call from the Big Blind. On the flop your opponent bets 6.5bb into the 6.5bb pot. In this scenario the Big Blind doesn't have to defend with 50% of their range. Why? Because the Big Blind was getting such good odds preflop that you can sacrifice a little bit postflop. Preflop the Big Blind only had to 1.5bb to win 5bb (2.5bb from the opener, .5 from the SB, 1bb from the BB, and 1bb from the ante). In this scenario the Big Blind was getting such good odds preflop that they were incentivized to call with a wide range of hands. This means that the Big Blind can overfold to a bet on the flop because they have so many trashy hands in their range. However, by the turn and river MDF is a productive equation to use when deciding how much of your range you need to defend. Final Note: Obviously, when you're playing in real time you're not going to be able to know exactly what part of your range is in the top 50% of hands that you need to defend. This is why it's so important to put in the work off the table to strengthen your intuition of how much you need to defend.

-You also don't have to be as rigid using MDF when playing against bad players who don't bluff. If someone isn't bluffing enough then you can fold more of your range than MDF would suggest. You don't have to defend the worst parts of your range if you knew that your opponent was always going to show up with a strong hand.


-Bluffing Frequency: First let's talk about why bluffing in poker is so important. If you played against someone who never bluffed on the river then you would never have to call. Take, for example, if you had KT on the river and the board is QT723, and you opponent bet $10 into a $10 pot. Would you ever call their bet if they never bluffed? No, of course not. You're not beating any of the value hands that they are betting which means that if they don't bluff then you never beat any of the hands in their range. If you've ever played live poker you've probably encountered people who almost never bluff. If a passive live player overbet jams on the river, and you know they're almost never bluffing, then you can easily fold almost everything. Never make poker easy on your opponent. The problem is that the passive player never makes money when they have a good value hand because the smart players know to fold when they bet. -Bluff frequency refers to the percent of bluffs a player should have given their bet sizing The equation is Bluff Frequency=(Bet Size)/((Bet Size*2)+Pot Size)). So if you bet $10 into a $10 pot then your bluff frequency should be (10)/((10*2)+10))=33%. This means that if you bet pot on the river you should have 33% of bluffs in your range, and 66% of value bets in your range. The smaller you bet the less you can bluff, and the bigger you bet the more you can bluff. So if you bet $5 on the river into a $10 pot then the equation is (5)/((5*2)+10))=25% so your range would need to be composed of 25% bluffs and 75% of value hands. Again, this number is so important because if you bet half pot you're supposed to bluff 25%, and if you don't then your opponent will have easy folds versus your range. If you bluff more than 25% your opponent will have easy calls with their bluffcatchers (BluffCatcher- A hand that can beat all the bluffs in your opponents range, but none of the value). If you bluff exactly 25% then you make your opponent indifferent to calling or folding which puts them in tough spots.

-This is once again a skill that you're not going to be able to implement in real time. However, if you use this equation off the table it will help strengthen your intuition in real time.

-Note: You can bluff more on the flop and turn because your bluffs still have a lot of equity. If you have 98dd on a AT3dd flop then you have a flush draw and a lot of equity even though you're still bluffing. When you have 98dd on a AT347 board then you no longer have any equity. Bluffing Frequency is most applicable on the river when the hands in your range are either value hands or bluffs.


There you go! The 3 main equations in poker that will help you study and review your hands off the table. It may take awhile to get used to using these concepts, but once you do it will take your poker game to a whole new level.

© 2019 by the Thirst Lounge.

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