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Variance

What is variance in poker?

We all know that variance exists in poker.

If you have a good grasp of the theory of poker and advanced concepts, then you also know that not only does variance exist, but it is a necessary part of poker.

Why?

Simply because if it were not for the "donks" getting lucky or sucking out on you, then why would they play? The best hand at the start of a hand does not always win and that's what makes poker so great.

Understanding variance - really having knowledge of what variance is and how it effects the game of poker - can make a good player great. There is not a top-level, winning poker player in the world that does not understand variance.

This does not mean that they don't let it get to them. Some people are definitely more tilt-prone than others, but there is no doubt that to be a really outstanding poker player, understanding the variance concept is a must.

It also does not mean that they are all math majors who can calculate the odds of any hand on any given flop. Variance is a mathematical term related to standard deviation and can be figured out using mathematical formulas. However, not everyone wants to do algebra while playing poker. For most, simply knowing the basics will suffice.

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So where do we start?

The easiest analogy that is often used is that of flipping a coin. If I were to tell you that every time we flip a coin and I win, you pay me 45 cents, but if you win, I pay you 55 cents. This is obviously a great deal for you right?

What happens if after 10 flips, I win 8 and you win 2 and suddenly I'm up $2.50? The weaker player will give up, saying it must be rigged, while the stronger player will ask to double the stakes. Think about this.

It is not because the strong player thinks that he must be "due". He knows that every single flip has the same chance of winning as the previous one and any one after that. Over time, over 100 flips, 1000 flips or more, the variance will lessen and heads will come up nearly the same number of times as tails. And over an infinite number of flips, they would both be flipped equally.

Doubling the stakes is known as the Martingale system, but the same theory can be applied to any even chance situation like roulette or as discussed above, flipping a coin.

Variance is a measure of are far off we are from expected value. And now listen carefully to this statistical truth: there is no limit to how large variance can be at a given point in time. In other words if you are in a losing streak, there is no way to tell if it will continue or reverse.

To transfer this to poker, let's look at everyone's favorite hand, Ace-Ace. If you could get AA all in pre-flop every single time you had it, would you do it? The immediate answer is yes, of course! However, haven't we all seen someone who say's that AA "always" gets sucked-out on and they might as well just fold it. These players don't understand variance.

Yes, AA is a great hand and if given the opportunity, should always get all in pre-flop. But the reality is that any random hand has about a 15% chance to win against AA before the flop.

Versus a somewhat coordinated hand, like a suited connector, the chance to win rises to about 20%. However, there will be times when you have the opportunity to get AA all in pre-flop and lose. Sometimes your Aces will get cracked two, three, or more times in a row, causing some people to think it must be rigged or something similar.

Another way to think about this is to go back to you and I flipping a coin. Every time you win, I pay you 80 cents and every time I win, you pay me 20 cents. This is the same as having an 80% chance to win versus a 20% chance to win. Does this mean that if I win 4 times in a row you should quit?

Poker is a game that cannot be measured in short stretches. Even 10,000 hands will not give you a good idea of whether or not you can be a successful, winning player over the long haul. It takes hundreds of thousands of hands for the variance to play out, at least somewhat, before you can determine if you are a long term winning player or not.

Ok enough about variance. Carbon Poker is a great place for online gaming fun, so visit carbon now and see for yourself (click on Tina).

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