Poker is not just an entertaining pastime; it’s a game that offers the chance to win money. Some might question why we’d consider a formula about breaking even, especially when our ultimate goal is profit. However, understanding how certain plays can lead us to break even is crucial. It forms a benchmark for decision-making and planning. If a specific play allows us to break even (i.e., the Expected Value is zero), we can predict losses if the play works less, and profits if it works more.

A simple formula to use is:

Breakeven % = $Risk/($Risk + $Reward)

Here, $Risk represents the bet size, while $Reward signifies the target pot size before the bet. For example, let’s assume a pot size of $30 before betting, with possible bet sizes of $10, $20, or $30.

With a $10 bet on a $30 pot, the breakeven percentage is 25%. This means we’ll break even if we succeed once in four attempts. A $20 bet gives a breakeven percentage of 40%, while a pot-sized bet of $30 results in a 50% breakeven percentage.

In poker, “breakeven” usually refers to the point where a play or decision neither makes nor loses money in the long run. A player might say they’re “breakeven” over a sample of hands if they’ve neither won nor lost money over that sample.

Another related concept is Pot Odds, which helps determine whether a call is profitable based on the current pot size and the amount you need to call. If the odds of completing your drawing hand are better than the pot odds being offered, then it’s profitable to make the call.

However, poker decisions aren’t always based solely on immediate pot odds and breakeven calculations. Factors like implied odds, the expected future actions of opponents, stack sizes, tournament considerations, and table dynamics can also influence decisions.

Breakeven percentages allow us to execute bluffs, regardless of our cards, by gauging opponents’ fold expectations in relation to the breakeven percentage. If the opposition’s fold expectancy exceeds the breakeven percentage, we have a profitable strategy. Successful bluffing works often enough to generate profit. For instance, a $5 bet into a $20 pot has a breakeven percentage of 20% and is profitable if the opponent folds 25% of the time. The higher our estimate of an opponent’s folding frequency, the more we should aim for a bluff and find a suitable bet size. Regularly tracking breakeven percentages helps us win pots even with cards that don’t justify a bet on their own.

Author: AngusD
last updated 19.09.2023