Analyzing the Value of a Mistake

However, the play poker which is correct most of the time may not always be the correct play. When you have an alternative plays, you also have to decide how bad it will be to make a mistake. Here is the simple example. If your rival bets on the end and you guess the chances are better than 50-50 that that rival has the best hand, the correct play many times is to fold and save a bet. Yet, it costs you not only one bet but the entire pot when folding turns to be a mistake - that is, when you fold the best hand. Hence, you would call, yet the chances are that you are making a mistake in poker game . The reason you would call is that this mistake will cost you only one bet, whereas the other mistake - folding when you have the best hand - will cost you the entire pot. (This is just the way of expressing that you should call when the pot odds you are getting with respect to your chances of having the best hand make calling a play with positive expectation.)

There are many other cases too, where making an incorrect play can cost you an enormous amount of money, therefore you should not pick that play which is favored to be right over 50 percent of the time. Such a case arises in no-limit poker game. For example, in no-limit hold'em poker game, you have two queens and you put in a small raise before the flop. Each one of them folds except one player, who turns with a huge re-raise. You know that this player will make such a play not only with two aces and two kings but also with an ace, king. Suppose you have nothing other than Bayes' Theorem available to put your rival on one of these three hands, the odds turns out to be 4-to-3 in support of your rival's having an ace, king instead of a pair of aces or a pair of kings.

Therefore, your pair of queens is the favorite 4/7 of the time and it is an underdog 3/7 of the time. Even though, your rival actually have ace, king, your queens are only a 13-to-10 favorite as there are only five cards to come, where among those only one card can make your rival give either a pair of kings or a pair of aces. Therefore, though you will average winning 13 times, the other 10 out of 23 times you will lose the hand when you call the raise and your rival has ace, king. However, those three times out of seven when your rival has two aces or two kings, your two queens are a big 4 ½-to-1 underdog which means in that situations, you will lose on average 18 hands out of every 22 play.

Hence, you cannot express, "My queens are 4-to-3 favorites to be the best hand. Therefore, I must call." It turns out that the 3/7 of the time your rival has two aces or two kings, you lose yourself so much that you do not gain it back the 4/7 of the time when he has ace, king.

The basic rule applied here is: When one choice will have a little worse effect if it is wrong and another second choice will have dangerous effect if it is wrong, you may be correct to pick up the first choice even when the second is little favored to be the correct play, this is most basic rules of poker play.

The same basic rule can be explained as an example in a limit game where the effects of making a wrong play are not that critical as in the no-limit game.

Seven-Card Razz

$15-$30 Limit



Your rival bets $30 and you know this rival will bet with anything except two pair. Will you call or raise?

The possibility show us your rival is a little favorite - almost 55 percent - to have his 8, 7 low when he bets, suppose he open with three small cards. When he does have an 8, 7 low, you must not raise because you are a little underdog and will possibly get re-raised. On the other hand, when one of your rival's upcards has paired one of his hole cards remaining 45 percent of the time, a raise is very beneficial to you as you are a big favorite. Hence, the call is correct 55 percent of the time and a raise is also the better play 45 percent of the time. However, the correct play is to raise because raising will be little wrong 55 percent of the time but calling will be absolutely wrong 45 percent of the time. Eventually, when your rival actually has an 8, 7 made and re-raises, you still have a good chance of outdrawing him. But, when he has paired, he has only a little chance of beating you as your 9 low is already the best hand and you have the best chance of improving to beat your rival - even if he makes his 8, 7. In future, you would do better by raising than by calling though raising will be correct only 45 percent of the time.


Correctly and swiftly determining risk-reward decisions at the poker table on the strength of a hand arrives only with poker experiences. Some of the experts do it instinctively. We have even stated theoretical basis for these decisions. Many times, when it is difficult to make a choice of plays, your best play is the one likely to be correct more than 50 percent of the time. On the other hand, when the favored play has very worse effects when it is wrong, and the less-favored play practice has only little worse effects when it is wrong, it may be correct to select the less-favored play.