Sklansky Dollars in Poker Explained

Sklansky bucks are among the most prominent concepts in modern poker theory. Read my guide to learn what they are and their importance.

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Avatar Author Adrian Sterne
Fact checked by Dusan Jovanovic

Sklansky DollarsPoker is one of the most complex casino games to master. While its rules aren’t harder to understand than some other games, mastering its gameplay is another story. Players have spent years coming up with tricks and developing various strategies to help them win.

The famous concept of Sklansky dollars and its theory are among the most well-known. If you’ve never heard about them, it’s high time you do.

This article will discuss what Sklansky dollars are, their importance, and how you can calculate them.

Keep reading.

What Are Sklansky Bucks?

The Sklansky buck or dollar is a concept created by one of the world’s greatest professional poker players — David Sklansky. He won three WSOP bracelets in the ‘80s and authored and co-authored 14 casino game theory books. The idea for the Sklansky dollars originated in the work called The Theory of Poker and quickly took on a life of its own.

The Fundamental Theorem of Poker, where Sklansky first introduced his popular concept, explains his idea in more detail. According to the theory, each time you play a hand differently than you would’ve played it had you seen all your opponent’s cards, you lose. Conversely, each time you play a hand in the same way you would’ve played it had you been aware of your opponent’s cards, you win.

The losses and wins Sklansky refers to are theoretical. You can bear a theoretical loss even if you win the pot in the end, and vice versa. To show that more tangibly, the poker player created a special unit of measurement — Sklansky bucks.

Sklansky bucks are units used to calculate how much money you can win from a bet or call on average based on your equity at that time. Despite their name, they don’t have any real value — they simply represent data in a post-game analysis. For the sake of better understanding, you can think of Sklansky bucks as theoretical money.

How to Calculate Sklansky Bucks?

You can calculate Sklansky bucks or the money you could’ve won from the hands you’ve played using a mathematical formula. You can find it below.

Sklansky Dollars = [(Final Pot Size) x (Equity)] – Last Call Amount

The formula might seem complex at first glance, but it’s not. Let’s look at an example to see how it works. Imagine you’re playing a $100 No Limit game where you appear to have an advantage over your opponent at a poker table.

Let’s say you have a 74.99% equity when the money goes to the center of the table. You call an all-in open shove on A♣K♣ against your opponent’s A♥2♣ hand. Nevertheless, they proceed to get a 2 on the River, and you lose $100. With these conditions, we calculate Sklansky bucks as follows:

[($200) x (0.7499)] – $100 = $49.98

The result ($49.98) represents the Sklansky dollars you’ve won despite your loss in the game. Even though you cannot redeem them at the end of the game, they’re a sign that you were playing profitable poker. They show that your choice was the right move in the long run play.

Importance of Sklansky Bucks

poker with friendsThe significance of Sklansky bucks lies in its correlation with the expected value (EV). The two concepts have similar definitions, so many confuse them.

However, Sklansky bucks are units, while EV is not.

The best way you can understand the difference between them is with the help of an analogy — Sklansky dollars are to EV what inches are to length. We can use Sklansky bucks to represent your EV.

However, EV is a much wider and more abstract notion than these units. It depends on more factors than Sklansky bucks, like:

  • Table dynamics
  • Reads
  • Positional advantage

So, it’s also much harder to calculate.

Still, both concepts work together and are essential for your development as a poker player. You can use them in your post-game analysis to see whether you’ve made the right decisions and played optimal poker.

On top of that, you might get some satisfaction from the games where your bankroll suffered a blow. If you keep taking the right route despite your immediate losses, your bankroll will show that in the long run. Sklansky dollar earnings will equal your real money earnings in the end.

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Sklansky dollars might sound like a complex concept but they are quite a straightforward poker tool that can help you hone your gambling skills.

With a short formula and a simple calculation, they’ll tell you whether the hands you’ve played would’ve paid off in the long run. Plus, they’ll help you see every defeat from another perspective.


What are Sklansky dollars?

Sklansky dollars are units of measurement that tell you what amount of money you could’ve won or can win based on equity at a certain point in the hand.

Who invented Sklansky bucks?

Sklansky bucks are a concept that the professional poker player David Sklansky introduced in one of his game theory books — The Theory of Poker.

What’s the difference between Sklansky dollars and EV?

Sklansky dollars and expected value both serve to tell us the amount of money a particular action will earn us over the long run. However, Sklansky bucks are units of measurement, and they only depend on equity, your opponent’s hand, and the final pot size. EV is much more abstract and depends on many more elusive factors.

Why should I calculate Sklansky dollars?

Sklansky dollar calculations can help you analyze your play, gain insight into your mistakes, and improve your poker skills over time.

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