• July 31, 2021

Online Poker Dictionary: Variance

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In statistical terms, variance is used to examine the differences between an individual result and the average for a set of results. These results can be represented as data points in a set to determine the fluctuations within that set.
The degree of ups and downs (or volatility) that your bankroll goes through in the course of your poker career – but this does not have to be necessarily indicative of the quality of your game.
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This means that in the short term, you may actually lose some part of your bankroll even if you play correctly. In the long term a player will win, if he can keep his patience and discipline and stay on the right path even when dealing with a downswing.
Higher variance games will have greater ups and downs of the bankroll. Games with a high variance such as Pot Limit Omaha and large field MTTs can cause big swings in your bankroll. In light of this risk, it is very important to think about the size of your bankroll.
A low variance playing style can help you to minimize the swings of your bankroll. This is a huge benefit, as it can help not to mess with your confidence, but the negative in playing this way, is that it is not the optimal way to fully maximize the value of your hands.
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Variance is natural and unavoidable, and is more prevalent with smaller sample sizes. If my sample size is only one flush draw, I must either make it (100% completion) or miss it (0% completion). As the sample size grows, variation tends to diminish. If I take 100 flush draws, I will make some and miss some others, but my variance will be less extreme than it was when my sample size was only one. So, the larger the sample size, the less variance you will tend to experience.
What does this all mean? It means that if you are a poker player, you must be prepared to deal with variance. If the variance is favorable, and you experience a winning streak, it is no problem. However, if the variance is unfavorable, and causes a losing streak, its impact can be profound. This is why you must have a proper bankroll in order to stay in action. It is protection against unfavorable variance.
If you experience unfavorable variance, you can do one of two things. First, you can ignore it and play your way through it. You can be confident that in the long run you will encounter favorable variance that will offset the current unfavorable variance you have been experiencing. This is your best option, provided your bankroll is large enough. Your second option is to attempt to mitigate unfavorable variance through risk management. This means that you avoid marginally profitable situations if they are too risky, so long as you are on short money. Be forewarned, this strategy will have a negative impact on your expectation. It should only be used to protect a short bankroll.
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Steve Carr

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