Poker Strategy: Keeping Your Variance Low


A common experience all poker players have is swings between highs (winning) and lows (losing). This is known as variance, a mathematical term that signifies the deviation in a players’ bankroll in the context of poker. There are certain games that have higher variance than other games. Pot Limit Omaha is one of them. Tournament formats also involve high variance.

In addition to such games, a regular game of poker can become a high variance game. This would be primarily due to the playing styles of people on the table. For example, a beginner may play many hands and call several bets. This is a game style with a high variance. If the player lands big cards and goes up against opponents who bluff a lot, you will get a high variance in the game.

For most players, it is a good idea to adopt a few strategies for lowering the variance. This will help provide more stability within your bankroll. This will allow you to take advantage of situations when you are dealt strong cards.

Play as Many Hands as You Can

In the long term, your wins and losses will most likely even out and stabilize at your skill level. A sample is the number of hands that a player is dealt in his career. The number of hands that make a sample can be quite high for a regular player. The more hands played, the lower the variance. There are a few ways to increase the number of hands you play. You can simply play poker more often, play in fast games, or play multiple tables simultaneously online.

Play Texas Hold’em

Those who play Texas Hold’em Poker are likely to experience fewer swings when compared to those who play Pot Limit Omaha Poker. One of the key reasons behind this is that the former player gets the chance to make good hands both before and after the flop. On the other hand, a player in Pot Limit Omaha will have a 60:40 chance of being a favorite at either point in the game. In this game, players’ decisions are influenced by several variables. This increases the variance in the game.

Betting structures also affect variance. In a 'No-Limit' game, variance is less than that in a 'Fixed Limit' game. In the latter, you require the best hand to win. So, the likelihood that a player will continue in a game, if he doesn’t have the best, is small. Also, many hands reach showdown. However, in 'Pot Limit' games, the pot is won quite regularly while the game is on the third (flop) and fourth street (turn). To win in these, players are not required to have the best hand.

Short Term | Play at More Tables

In case you want to log volume in the short term, you should play at multiple tables. This will help you tide over downward swings more quickly than you would playing at one table. When playing at several tables, you will most likely be playing in many games. In multi-table tournaments, the game schedule will be quite varied. The more games you play, the more hands you can see. This increases your sample. In the short term this reduces volatility and variance.

Long Term | Play at Limited Number of Tables and Develop Skills

To decrease variance in the long term, play at a limited number of tables. If logging volume is not your focus, you can lower your variance by doing this. The fewer tables you play at, the higher your earn rate is. This can reduce the variance in your bankroll. Also, when you play at one table, you are likely to get the chance to develop your skill in the game. The more skilled you are, the higher your chances are to make decisions that can lead to wins.

Select Poker Games Based on Variance

Poker games differ on the extent to which variance is present. So, it is important that you take this into consideration before you play a game. 'Sit and Go’s' have a higher variance when compared to cash games. However, in comparison to multi-table tournaments, 'Sit and Go’s' have less variance. A key factor in determining variance in the games, is the number of showdowns in them.

As a favorite, when you put your chips in the pot during a session, this will influence the variance. A favorite is a hand which, when compared with another at showdown, has an advantage in terms of odds. If two such hands are pushed all-in as a favorite at 70%, the likelihood that you will win with both is less than 50%.

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