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Poker Variance


Variance is a term commonly used with respect to poker. Though poker is luck based in the short run, it is all skill in the long run. Sometimes, correct play will have a bad result than the incorrect play; good players will frequently lose to bad players. This is why learning to play well is not an easy task. Understanding and calculating variance and how to apply the variance number to your poker game will help you become a better poker player. Poker is a game of skill with a chance element brought about by the random shuffle and distribution of cards. Variance in poker gaming describes the effect of that chance element in the short-term & in many ways can be considered the enemy of the skilled poker player. Having an understanding of this and ensuring that you get the chips in when you have the best hand will bring you huge profits in the long-term.

What is Variance?

Variance is the downswings and upswings involved in playing poker. It is the difference between how much money you expect to win on average in the long run and the results you are seeing in the short term. So for example, if according to your win rate you expect to win Rs500 in a month on average but end up losing Rs1000 instead, this is attributed to variance.

Factors affecting the amount of Variance

There are a few factors that can increase or decrease the amount of variance that you encounter during a poker game:

    • Your playing style - If you play a very loose-aggressive style of play then you will be involved in a lot more pots and will be consequently risking more money than your average tight player. The looser you are and the more risks you take, the greater your variance will be.
    • The betting type - No limit has greater variance than limit poker, where the amount of money that players can put in to the pot is much smaller in relation to the blinds in limit games than it is in no limit games. The more money you can risk, the greater the variance.
    • The game type - Large MTTs will have much more variance than SNGs because you expect to win far less often. However, when you do win an MTT you receive sudden large winning amount, which obviously results in higher levels of variance.

You might be playing excellent poker game but you still lose money, which makes it annoyingly difficult to analyse what you might be doing right and what you might be doing wrong. You have to back yourself that you are making good plays and feel genuinely comfortable about your gameplay, regardless of what short term results indicate. Confidence in your ability at the poker table is a very important quality to posses especially when you are experiencing a bad phase in poker. You just have to keep learning and trust that it’s paying off.

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