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The Difference Between +cEV and Optimal cEV

When playing poker, your goal shouldn’t be merely to profit. Instead, your goal should be to maximize your profits. Suppose you’re not yet in the money in a tournament with a top-heavy payout structure (meaning that you’re making your decisions purely with respect to cEV). Your table is 9-handed, blinds are at T100-T200 with a T25 ante, everybody has T3000, and you’re on the button. The complete non-exploitable jam/fold strategy for this situation can be found here.

If you and your opponents play non-exploitable jam/fold, then in the long-run, you expect to profit about T45.36 every time it’s your button. T45.36 doesn’t sound like a lot when blinds are T100-T200 with a T25 ante. However, in terms of PTBB/100, T45.36 per button is 11.34 PTBB/100. 11.34 PTBB/100 is a pretty good number considering that elite deep-stacked cash game players probably have a button PTBB/100 somewhere around 20. And if your opponents are playing imperfect jam/fold preflop, then your button will be worth more than 11.34 PTBB/100.

At the very minimum, you should be making 11.34 PTBB/100 on the button when antes are in play, effective stacks are 15bb, and your opponents are playing jam/fold preflop. But simply settling for 11.34 PTBB/100 on your button here means that you’re not seeking to maximize your profits. Given that a known strategy exists that will net you 11.34 PTBB/100 when your opponents are playing non-exploitable jam/fold, you don’t want to play a strategy from the button that will net you less than 11.34 PTBB/100 when stacks are 15bb. But if a strategy existed that could make your button worth more than 11.34 PTBB/100, then you’d be a fool not to adopt it.

Such a strategy potentially exists, and it’s going to be the topic of an upcoming video of mine at PocketFives Training. It’s also going to be covered in my upcoming book, Tournament Endgame Strategy. And while some of you are probably salivating right now, the point of this blog post isn’t to talk about optimal short-stacking in no-limit hold’em. The point of this blog post is to emphasize that simply taking +cEV lines isn’t sufficient (regardless of playing short-stacked NLHE, deep-stacked NLHE, or whatever other form of poker you like to play). Continually challenge yourself to find better lines – even if you’re the best player in the game you currently play. Because if you don’t, then a day will come where you’re no longer the best player in the game you currently play.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera


Feel free to repost this as long as you include the following author box (including hyperlinks):

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author, an instructor at PocketFives Training, a member of Team Moshman, and host of the popular poker strategy podcast, Killer Poker Analysis. Tony blogs about decision optimization on and off the felt at


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