Poker Math – Break-even %

break-evenPoker math can be daunting for some people, but with practice it will become second nature even to the ultra math-impaired.  A very beneficial poker math calculation is the Break-even %.

The Break-even % (BE%) gives you mathematical proof of how often your bet, call or raise has to succeed in order to break-even; or in other words to be mathematically neutral in Expected Value (0EV).  If it works more than the BE% it’s +EV, and it if works less often than the BE% it’s -EV.

Poker Math: Calculating the break-even % for a bluff

It’s a very simple formula:

BE% = Risk / (Risk + Current Pot)

For example, a 1/2 pot bluff bet needs to work 33% of the time to break-even:

BE% = .5 / (.5 + 1) = .5/1.5 = 33%

To show an example in actual $’s, a $50 bluff bet into a $100 pot:

BE% = $50 / ($50 + $100) = $50/$150 = 33%

So, if your opponent will fold 33% of the time, it’s a break-even bet.  If he folds more often than 33% it’s +EV and you’re printing money.  If he folds less than 33%, then your bet is -EV and is costing you money.

What About Bluff Raises?

The break-even math for bluff raises works the same way and uses the same formula above.  For example, your opponent bets $50 into the $100 pot, making the pot now $150.  You decide to bluff raise to $150.  How often does this $150 bluff raise have to work to break-even?

BE% = $150 / ($150 + $150) = $150/$300 = 50%

So, if you feel that he’ll fold greater than 50% of the time, then you’re making a +EV play.

And What About Calling Bets?

Same calculations again.  In the example above, you think you’ve got your opponent beat and he bets $50 into the $100 pot on the river.  How often does your $50 call have to win the now $150 pot to break-even?

BE% = $50 / ($50 + $150) = $50/$200 = 25%

So, if you win over 25% of the time then it’s a +EV call, but less than 25% and it’s a -EV call.

Some Common Break-even %’s

You should be able to run all this math on your own, but here are some of the most common BE %’s that you should have memorized.

Bluff BE

Bluff Raise BE

Calling BE

How can I use this poker math to my advantage?

When bluffing opponents, hand reading and putting them on a range will help you to estimate how often they’ll fold to your bet.  This takes a ton of off-the-felt practice, but by doing hand history reviews, putting your opponents on ranges and assessing how these ranges hit different flops you can estimate how strong your opponent’s holdings are and estimate how often he’s folding.  Off-the-felt practice leads to better game time decisions.

In the case of calling opponent’s bets, you can assess (through hand reading, assigning a range and considering the board) whether your hand will win beyond that break-even point to determine whether a call is in order.

I hope you found this information useful.  If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Make your next session the best one yet!

Sky Matsuhashi
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