Variance is a Bitch
In poker, variance is a bitch.
But she’s our bitch, so try not to be mad at her.
In a cash game yesterday, I find myself in a 3-way all-in pot after the turn card. There was $390 in the pot after the flop betting and the turn card gave me a flush draw along with an open-ended straight draw. The action checked around to me and I shoved my last $260, hoping everyone would fold and knowing I had a lot of backup outs. One player called with two pair, another re-shoved with the bottom end of a straight and the first player called again. From a strictly EV (expected value) standpoint, this was a profitable play with two callers, as my final bet was 22.2% of the total pot and I have 27.4% equity in the hand. From a math standpoint, my EV is $321 (final pot size of $1,160 x 27.4%). The river misses, and my actual result is zero.
Later in the same game, another all-in ensues, this time heads up on the flop. The pot is around $1,100 again and this time I’m ahead with top two pair, and the villain big combo draw. He hits one of them right away on the turn and wins the pot. This time my EV is $684 (final pot size of $1,100 x 62.2%). My actual result, again, is zero.
On these two hands combined, my EV was just over $1,000. Instead, nyet! I buy-in again, and before too long my pocket aces are cracked by a set of sevens (by the same guy who flopped a set of eights v. my pocket jacks much earlier). Time to go home.
Such is the nature of variance. The actual result is always an all-or-nothing proposition. The expected result is the average that should occur if the same scenario were to be replayed a million times. Being a favorite doesn’t guarantee being a winner.
Over the long haul, if you are on the right side of the 60/40’s and 70/30’s more often than not, variance will be your friend, despite tormenting you often along the way.
In the short run, this was simply a day of being on the wrong side once (insofar as very large pots is concerned) and being on the right side once, but missing both sides. Yes, the coin toss can come up heads twice in a row even though I always guess tails.
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