All-in EV is a statistic that can be used to see how good or bad you are running in poker i.e. how lucky or unlucky you have been in all-in situations. While it's not the be all and end all for judging luck it can go a long way to explaining some of your poker results.
How All-in EV is calculated
When you get all your chips into the middle and there are still cards to come, both you and your opponent most likely still have a chance to win the pot. Only one of you will win the pot though, so one of you will 'get lucky' and one of you will 'get unlucky'. This is still usually the case even when one player has a much better hand than the other.
You have in an online game with $0.50/$1 blinds. You manage to get all-in pre-flop with an opponent who holds . You each had $100 so the pot is $200. Your chance of winning here is great but it's obviously not 100%. In fact your equity here is roughly 68% vs your opponents 32%, so you will win the pot just over two thirds of the time.
This is a great situation you've got yourself in but you don't collect 68% of the pot ($136) every time this happens. You are going to win the $200 pot 68% of the time (winning $100), and lose the $200 pot 32% of the time (losing $100).
The Expected Value (or EV) for your hand when you go all-in here is 68% of $200 which is $136. So when you win the pot you have run $64 above EV (because you now have $200 but your EV was $136), and when you lose the pot you have run $136 below EV (because you now have $0 but your EV was $136).
To some people the first part of that last sentence can seem counter intuitive at first. You had the best hand and you won so how can you be said to have 'got lucky'? Well you actually won more than you are expected to win, so technically you were lucky.
Tip: You can use Poker Stove to work out hand equities. It is a free tool that can be found here www.pokerstove.com.
Using Poker Tracker to track All-in EV
Although it's relatively easy to calculate the all-in EV of any single hand with a program like Poker Stove or an online poker odds calculator, if you want to track how you are running in all-in situations over larger hand samples you will need to track your hands with Poker Tracker.
Poker Tracker is a very powerful piece of poker software that, among other things, tracks all your online poker hands and keeps accurate records and reports for you to analyse. It can really improve your game in many ways, but for now we will just talk about the ability to track your all-in EV stat.
You can see how far above or below EV you run in any given hand and much more usefully you can see how far above or below EV you run over your entire hand samples, even across multiple sites.
Note: It is very common to run either above or below EV and as a poker player it's just something you have to live with. The probability of running significantly above/below EV is quite high for small hand samples (20,000 hands or less), and although it is more likely to converge as the number of hands increases it can still happen for larger samples to.
Don't let bad runs get you down, and don't expect that just because you have been running bad you are guaranteed to run good soon. This feeling of entitlement will only get in the way of your ultimate goal, which should be to just play the best poker you possibly can. If you achieve this goal, the money will follow naturally regardless of how ugly your EV graph looks.
All-in EV graphs in Poker Tracker
The best way to visualise how you are running is to plot your all-in EV on a graph with your actual winnings also displayed. Poker Tracker does this for you as you can see from the example below:
As you can see from the above graph, this player has actual winnings (in green) of around $16, but his all-in EV line (in yellow) shows that his EV was around $50, so he's running about $34 under EV for that sample of 6,400 hands.
Limitations of using All-in EV
Although measuring all-in EV can be very useful, and can certainly confirm/deny any concerns you have about how you have been running, it shouldn't be used as a catch all for judging your entire poker game.
For a start, it only looks at all-in situations. Most poker hands do not result in you getting all-in. When you get aces pre-flop and end up folding before the river because it becomes obvious that an opponent has hit a better hand, you have technically run below expectation (as your pocket aces were certainly the best hand pre-flop, and are profitable in the long run), but all-in EV does not take these types of hands into account.
There are many ways to be lucky or unlucky that do not result in all-ins. But even when you do get all-in, there are other ways to run good or bad, like when you have an excellent hand but your opponent has an even better one (coolers). In tournaments you can even lose or gain equity based on the all-ins of other players in hands you are not even involved in (like players getting knocked out or short stacks doubling up).
These limitations don't mean that all-in EV is of no use, far from it, it just means that there are other ways to run above or below expectation in poker and it's useful to be aware of this.
So far we have only discussed pre-flop all-ins as these are the simplest to explain and understand but the same principles apply to hands where you get all-in after the flop.
Note: Hands where you get all-in on the river will always run exactly at EV because there are no cards left to come that could change the outcome. The same is also true in other situations where one player has 100% equity and the other has 0%.
You have , your opponent has and you get all-in on a flop of for a pot total of $400. Your hand will win here 74% of the time so your expected value is $296 (400 x 0.74).
So 74% of the time you will win the hand run $104 above EV, and 26% of the time you will lose the hand and run $296 below EV.
You have , your opponent has and you get all-in on a board of for a pot total of $1,000. Your hand will win here 34% of the time so your expected value is $340 (1000 x 0.34).
So 34% of the time you will win the hand and run $660 above EV, and 66% of the time you will lose the pot and run $340 below EV.