Negative Expectation

word type: poker slang

  1. The percentage of loss expected by a) a poker player in a given game or b) a poker play over the long run.


This term is often used on poker forums and in coaching videos. What it means is that if you make a particular move or play over and over again, in the long run, you will lose. For example, if you always shove all-in as a 52-48% underdog, the play will yield a negative expectation because in the long run, it won't be a winner.

The Inevitability of Negative Expectation

Regardless of how good you are, you will eventually find yourself in a game where your expectation is negative. This is an important realization because as soon as you find yourself in such a game, you should immediately remove yourself from it. Negative expectation is the reason a low stakes grinder doesn't attempt to play nosebleed stakes - they know they will lose more often than they win.

Other Factors of Negative Expectation

What some players don't realize is that many factors can contribute to negative expectation. For example, if your confidence is low and you're distracted, playing in a game where you're normally a winner might actually be a negative expectation decision. In the long run, if you play in the game unsure of yourself and distracted, you will likely lose more often than you win. The same goes for your attitude, health, and state of mind - your expectation can hinge on any one of these factors, and the sooner you realize it the better.