Outside of poker, to realize an asset means to cash in on its value. Equity realization and equity denial are complementary concepts. You have been denied 100% of your equity if you have been forced to fold before showdown (except in rare cases when your hand was drawing dead, and thus had 0% equity anyway). Not being denied your equity, means the same as realizing your equity.
In Texas Holdem any hand usually has at least some equity versus any other hand, until showdown. We say usually because in some rare cases a hand can be drawing dead and have 0% equity. At showdown one hand has 100% equity, and the rest 0% equity, except in the cases of ties.
For example, if you are all-in preflop holding AA against another opponent – regardless of what he holds you both have equity preflop. There is no hand your opponent can have, that gives you a 100% chance of winning this hand. Even if he held the other pair of aces, he could make one of 2 flushes to win the pot outright (although this will not happen often). With any other hand he has between 6% and 24% equity. As you are both all-in preflop, neither of you can be denied any of your equity, or put another way you will both fully realize your equity.
However, in any situation when 2 or more players are not all in preflop, even though all players likely have some equity in the hand (i.e. they have some chance of winning, if the hand went to showdown) any player can have all their equity denied (if they are forced to fold). You ideally would like to realize your fair share or better of your equity, and try and deny your opponents their fair share.
Aggressive vs Passive methods
Realizing your own equity (and thus not being denied your own equity), can be done aggressively or passively. It is important to understand when each of this is best.
Many weaker players, default to passive realization, even when it is not the highest EV decision – their main aim is to get to showdown, and they only want to bet or raise when they have a strong hand, and they like the board so far (some will also do this with the absolute best draws). This is really common at small stakes live poker.
At UnfairPoker.com, we recommend you think about who has range advantage (in particular, nut advantage), who has position, and in tournaments about ICM implications, to decide whether you should be aggressively or passively realizing.
Aggressive equity realization
By betting when you could have checked, or raising when you could have just called, you are attempting to aggressively realize your equity.
You give your opponents a chance to fold, which would deny them 100% of their equity. You are also building a bigger pot, which you hope to win.
You will want to consider aggressively realizing your equity when:
- You have a range advantage over your opponent, especially when you have nut advantage.
- You are in position.
- (In tournaments) when you cover your opponent, so you can eliminate them (especially when they are under ICM pressure).
Passive equity realization
By putting no chips into the pot when you don’t have to, i.e. checking if it’s an option, and when facing a bet only calling (i.e. not raising) you are attempting to passively realizing the equity.
The disadvantage of doing this is that you don’t give your opponents a chance to fold, so you are not denying them any of their equity. However, the advantage is that you are not putting in more money into the pot when it is not in your interest to do so.
You will want to consider passively realizing your equity when:
- Your opponent has a range advantage, especially when he has nut advantage.
- You are out of position.
- (In tournaments) when your opponent has you covered, and so could eliminate you (this applies especially when you are under ICM pressure).