Poker Notepad: Relative Value


In the second part of “Poker Notepad” we’ll try to cover or at least discuss a little such a matter as relative value. This concept helps to determine hand’s strength in specific situation.

First, let’s make several requirements:

  • You have to at least have understanding of hands value
  • You have to at least have understanding of ranges
  • You have to at least have some experience of playing on real money.

Now we can continue.

Everything is relevant in this world. And in poker even more so. This is basically one of the main poker values. Are AA nuts on preflop? Sure, but on the flop, turn or river this hand can fall under different categories – it can be even garbage hand. Not only depending on the board itself but on many other factors.

Let us speak about those factors.

Shades of grey

Harrington is awesome. When was the time he wrote his “Bible”? It’s been years and his ideas are still valuable, very valuable. We’ll apply one of them right now.

There are shades of grey in poker. In other words, hand value varies not only to nuts, crap and mediocre hands.

Here is a full list of poker hand values:

1. Nuts
2. Almost nuts
3. Good hand
4. Hand with some value
5. Bluff catcher
6. Garbage.

It is quite easy to play with extreme hands – nuts and garbage – and even with almost nuts. It’s either bet, bet, bet or immediate fold. Other hands are trickier. Poker cards value differ.

But the main difficulty isn’t here. It’s in that various combinations can fall into different categories of hands depending on the situation.

Factors forming expected value in specific hands are following:

  1. Board

Let’s take set for example. Set makes us feel comfortable but it is not the nuts hand.  On the board with the potential flush set becomes a “good hand” or a “hand with some value”. Besides too many boards have streets on them. And if there is straight and flush draw? What if board is suited? Hand can become total air.

I am not saying about Top pair top kicker. Most of the pots at the showdown are won with at least two pairs. At least at decent stakes against decent opponents.

       2. Action

The number of players in the hand and their actions make a big influence on relative value. The more opponents you have the less value. You can’t play well on the suited board against several opponents.


  1. How the hand stands

Absolute strength of the hand doesn’t consider one more factor – how this or that hand stands against specific hand. Kings preflop are almost nuts but against AA they have even less equity than 65o. And this connector is harder to read.

  1. Good and bad equity

Equity is not the same all the time. It can be good or bad. Let’s consider that in the first hand we get top pair and middle kicker and in second against the same opponent we get straight draw.

Let’s imagine that equity is the same in both cases. Some of them is more preferable, isn’t it? Yes, it is. The second one.

Straight draw is harder to read and equity increases drastically when straight draw completes. We can’t say that about top pair – It’s likely to remain top pair on the turn. If straight draw does not complete itself, you can easily part your ways with it.

  1. Equity vs. Call range

There is one issue with betting on late streets (river mostly). Many players start to compare their range with the opponent’s range and make decisions based on this comparison. For example: “I have 80% equity vs. his range, I must bet the river”.

The thing is our opponent won’t make call with worse hands most of the time. But he will call with nuts. It’s a bet good for nothing.

It’s wiser to evaluate opponent’s call range. With what will he call. If our equity vs. this range is over 50% – we are good.

  1. Position

Position makes our life simpler. Any hand in position is stronger than without it.

These are not all the factors. We, for instance, didn’t consider opponents traits about betting/raising with mediocre hands and many others. Develop these ideas by yourself. It’s all pretty subjective from this point.

Previous episodes:

Poker Notepad: Pot Commitment


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