How Equity Realization Impacts Every Hand You’ll Ever Play

You’ve probably heard the term “equity realization” a few times – it’s been used in many articles here at Upswing.

But if you don’t know what equity realization means, or how to use it, it’s time to learn. We’re about to cover this crucial poker concept, one that impacts every hand you’ll ever play.

But first, in order to understand realized equity, you must understand raw equity.

What is raw equity?

Raw equity is the average percentage of the pot a hand expects to win versus the opponent’s range. This assumes both hands will reach showdown.

For example, if you have AKs, which has a 50% chance of beating your opponent’s 22 by showdown, you have 50% raw equity.

What is equity realization?

Equity realization is the percentage of the pot a hand can expect to win based on its raw equity and the many postflop variables at play.

In other words, it’s your equity after accounting for how often you will reach showdown, get bluffed, bluff your opponent, etc. To my mind, the realized equity of a hand is its true equity.

For example, let’s say you have a hand with 40% raw equity against your opponent’s range preflop. After considering postflop variables, which we will discuss in more detail shortly, you estimate that your hand will realize only 75% of it’s raw equity:

Equity realized = .75 * 40% = 30%

In other words, your hand will win three-quarters as often as the raw equity led you to believe.

Keep in mind that calculating a hand’s exact realized equity is near-impossible. The best we can do is estimate, especially in-game.

Note: Poker players (maybe even the ones in your games) are improving their skills every day in the Upswing Lab training course and community. Don't let yourself fall behind. Learn all about the Lab here!

How to estimate the equity your hand will realize

Here are the main factors that impact the amount of equity a hand will realize:

1. Position
2. Playability
3. Stack depth
5. Skill

Let’s discuss each one and why it influences how much equity your hands will realize.

1. Position

Your hands will realize more equity when you are in position and less equity when you are out of position.

When in position, you get to act last on every street and thus can make more informed and more accurate decisions. This means you’ll be able to bluff and value bet very efficiently, as you will have one more round of information than your opponent. Consequently, you realize more equity.

2. Playability

There are two general rules for a hand’s playability relating to equity realization:

1. The stronger a hand is, the more equity it will realize.
2. The more connected your 2 cards are, the more equity your hand will realize.
3. Suited hands realize significantly more equity than their offsuit counterparts.

The first rule is fairly obvious. When you have a strong hand, such as AA or AKs, you will reach showdown quite often, thus realizing your equity.

Here’s an explanation of the latter two rules: The more connected and/or suited your cards are, the more likely it is you will flop something with solid equity – i.e., a straight, a flush, an open-ended straight draw, a gutshot, a flush draw, or even a backdoor draw. When you flop something with solid equity, you are more likely to reach showdown and realize all of your equity.

For example, you can see below how often 76s flops something compared to its offsuit counterpart (this is a feature of analysis software Flopzilla, by the way):

76s hits the flop 62.4% of the time while 76o hits the flop 55.9% of the time – a difference of 6.5 percentage points. This is because 76s will flop a flush draw much more often, and it will occasionally flop a flush.

Now let’s compare a suited connector to a suited gapper like 87s vs. 85s to see how much connectivity matters:

87s hits the flop 62.4% of the time compared to 57.1% for 85s. Both hands can flop straights or straight draws, but 87s’ lack of gaps means it will happen more often (18.8% for 85s compared to 26.2% for 87s).

3. Stack depth

The rule of thumb here is that the higher the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR) is, the more equity the player in-position will realize. The opposite is true for the out-of-position player.

Additionally, suited and connected hands tend to realize more equity with a deeper SPR because they win bigger pots on average when hitting big hands.

The player who has a stronger range tends to realize more equity, since she can play more aggressively with the bottom part of her range, thus forcing the other player to fold more decent hands.

For example, when defending your big blind, you’ll likely realize more equity if the player who raised is on the button instead of, say, UTG.

5. Skill

There are two parts to this factor:

5.1  The skill of your opponent.

This boils down to how frequently and effectively your opponent applies pressure on the flop, turn, and river.

If he doesn’t c-bet frequently enough on the flop, for example, you will get to realize a lot more equity than you would against an aggressive opponent who c-bets often.

If you know when to call, when to fold, and when to raise correctly you will realize more equity. If you start making mistakes in those departments then your equity realization will drop significantly.

It also helps if to know how to exploit your opponents. So, beyond knowing the correct theoretical decisions, if you can understand your opponents’ strategies and implement the correct counter-strategies, you will realize a lot more equity than if you played only a theoretically-sound game.

Conclusion

Equity realization is another one of those very key concepts every aspiring poker pro needs to know. Understanding and using it will help you navigate the game more profitably as you improve, and avoid those negative EV calls that you might have been making preflop.

Finally, if you’re a Lab member, make sure to check out the ’10 Rules for Equity Realization’ guide by Ryan Fee. You can find it in the Downloadable Resources module or in the ‘Files’ tab of the Upswing Poker Engage Facebook group.

Good luck, grinders!

P.S. Using this equity realization concept in combination with equity denial will give you a big leg-up on your opponents.

Note: Poker players (maybe even the ones in your games) are improving their skills every day in the Upswing Lab training course and community. Don't let yourself fall behind. Learn all about the Lab here!

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