What is variance in poker games?
Jul 19, 2023
Jaxon Kingsley
by Jaxon Kingsley

Understanding the Basics of Variance in Poker

As a poker enthusiast, one of the first concepts you'll encounter is variance. Variance is simply the statistical measure of how your results will differ from your average outcome. It's the highs and lows, the unpredictable swings of luck and skill, that make poker such an exciting game to play. But understanding variance is also crucial if you're looking to improve your game and become a more successful player.

It's important to note that variance isn't necessarily a measure of your skill as a poker player. Instead, it's more a measure of luck. You might have a run of bad luck where you lose several hands in a row, or a run of good luck where you win several hands in a row. These streaks are an example of variance. Over the long run, these streaks will average out and your true skill level will become evident.

How Variance Affects Your Poker Game

Variance can have a big impact on your poker game. For example, if you're a conservative player who only plays strong hands, you might have a low variance. This means that you won't experience as many extreme ups and downs, but you also won't win as much money. On the other hand, if you're an aggressive player who likes to take risks, you might have a high variance. This means that you could experience some big wins, but also some big losses.

Understanding your own personal variance can help you make better decisions at the poker table. For example, if you know that you're a high-variance player, you might decide to play more conservatively in certain situations to mitigate your risk. Conversely, if you're a low-variance player, you might decide to take more risks in order to increase your potential winnings.

Calculating Variance in Poker

Calculating your variance in poker involves a bit of math, but it's not too complicated. Essentially, you need to calculate your average winnings (or losses) per hand, and then calculate how far away each individual hand is from that average. The further away a hand is from your average, the more it contributes to your variance.

There are also online calculators and software programs available that can help you calculate your variance. These tools can be very helpful, especially if you're not a fan of doing the math yourself. They can provide you with a detailed analysis of your game, including your variance, and can help you identify areas where you could improve.

Managing Variance in Your Poker Strategy

Managing variance in your poker strategy involves making adjustments to your game based on your understanding of variance. For example, if you're a high-variance player, you might want to consider playing more conservatively in order to reduce your risk. Conversely, if you're a low-variance player, you might want to consider taking more risks in order to increase your potential winnings.

One way to manage variance is to adjust your bankroll management strategy. If you're a high-variance player, you might want to keep a larger bankroll in order to absorb potential losses. Conversely, if you're a low-variance player, you might be able to get away with a smaller bankroll.

Balancing Skill and Luck in Poker Variance

One of the most fascinating aspects of poker variance is the balance between skill and luck. While variance is largely a measure of luck, there's also a significant skill component involved. Skilled players can reduce their variance by making good decisions, while less skilled players might experience higher variance due to poor decision making.

Ultimately, understanding and managing variance is a key part of becoming a successful poker player. By understanding your own personal variance and making adjustments to your strategy accordingly, you can increase your chances of success at the poker table. Remember, variance is simply a part of the game – it's how you manage it that really counts.