A player recently commented in the chat section of an online poker game, after a long run of hands folding, “Instead of saying we ‘play poker’, we should say we ‘fold poker’.” He’s not wrong, since it can seem at certain moments in a game that your actions are more about folding than playing. If you’re playing well, this is indeed the way it’s supposed to be — but when are you folding too much? When are you doing yourself no favours by folding hands you should actually be playing?
The dangers of folding too often are manifold. Just one of the drawbacks is that other players will notice and then target you by bluffing more or betting you out since you’re obviously only playing with monster hands. Learn when you should be playing and in which situations your best strategic decision is indeed to fold.
When You Should Fold
When to fold in poker is a decision every player needs to make all the time, and the answer is never the same. It changes with the circumstances at any specific time. If you fold your hand correctly, you essentially acknowledge that the EV (expected value) of your hand does not warrant the bet and the pot size needed to play any further. Most people fold hands like 7-2 or 9-2 preflop because the EV is too low to take a chance on these cards, so folding is easy. Generally speaking, folding around 40% of your hands preflop is considered good practice. Some would say 30% of the time while others would say 50%, but it all comes down to what kind of player you are.
Your position in the game also influences the range of hands you play with. On the button you would normally play either between 50%–70% of your hands and fold the rest. The further you move from the button, the more your hand range shrinks and the more often you fold. Compared to the 30%–50% of the time you would fold on the button, you would do well to fold up to 85% of your hands Under The Gun.
Once the flop is on the table, it gets harder to determine whether you should fold or not. Your hand strength, the type of player you’re up against and the pot odds are just some of the factors that come into play at this point. Look for unusual actions from your opponents. Maybe a tight player who rarely bluffs makes a huge bet. Maybe a recreational or usually passive player overbets the pot. These are usually indications that you should fold if you’re not 100% certain that you have the best hand. Unfortunately, there will be times when you thought the opposing player had the better hand and you folded the nuts. You’d be in good company since some of the world’s best players have made the worst folds ever. Take it as a (very expensive) lesson and move on.
Situations Where You’re Probably Folding Too Often
When it comes down to it, there are only two ways you can take down a pot in a poker game. Either you see the opponent until showdown with the best hand, or you force the opponent to fold and you win the pot in that way. The question is, are your opponents the ones who are forcing you to fold and winning lots and lots of pots that way? Or are you the one with the fold equity that causes your opponents to fold every time you raise or bet?
Simply put, fold equity in poker is a subjective calculated percentage of the likelihood to make an opposing player fold. The higher your fold equity, the more likely an opponent will fold against a bet or a raise. With fold equity, poker online games get a lot more interesting.
Fold Equity in Practice
Another major factor that influences your folding habits is preflop. You’ll also want to keep an eye on how the situation changes after the flop and the consecutive streets.
If you’re dealt pocket aces, kings, queens or jacks, you should never under any circumstances fold, even if there’s a 3-bet. To these cards, and depending on the climate on the board — your position, the type of players you’re up against — you can add pocket pairs. These can go down to 5-5, suited Broadway cards, suited connectors (such as a 6 and 7 of hearts) or hands with a card and an ace suited. Depending on your position at the table, you should widen your range closer to the button, while you should tighten up your range the further you move from the button. Even if you miss the flop (especially a dry flop like 3, 9, 10 rainbow,) your hand still has a lot of equity to make the nuts on further streets. Even if an overcard hits, like a queen when you have an ace-king, you would still be in a good position to bluff on the turn. Folding these hands prematurely gives up all the equity your hand has and all the potential winnings.
Other types of flops that would have players fold hands with enough equity to call and continue playing are the monochrome flops, three cards in all one suit. The odds of any player flopping a flush or a draw usually don’t warrant a fold against any type of pressure from your opponent. Good players take advantage of this and will usually bluff with the knowledge that most players would fold at this point.
Getting to the flop or the turn with top pair, good drawing hands, overpair or two pairs, means you can sometimes have these players fold with a little bit of aggression from across the table. Under most circumstances, don’t fold these hands.
What To Do
A good rule to go by is to stop making decisions related to your hand strength at that particular moment. Folding too often is usually a result of being unaware of your hand’s true equity. As the game of folding can tell you a lot about a player, and vice versa, you would learn a lot by asking these questions in every hand played: Am I folding more than 30–40% of the time here? And, is my opponent folding more than 50% of the time here? Your results, and adjusting your game accordingly, will soon have other players looking to you for lessons in how to play poker.
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