Folding in poker can be a powerful strategy

Dec 31, 2013 3:00 AM

Too many poker players look down upon folding as a weak play. It is withdrawing from the hand – giving up on it! They would rather do the betting or raising.

Of course, aggressive play is more exciting; and there are many situations where aggression is the wise choice. But don’t be too quick to denigrate folding as a viable – and prudent – poker strategy. It depends…

Your main goal: It’s to go home a winner. Fact of the matter is most hole cards dealt to you will not be viable starting hands. Fold them; the chips you save by not chasing in hope for a “miracle flop” will help in your quest to achieve that goal: to win money.

Miracle flops occur so rarely; chasing can only gain you a Negative Expectation. The Hold’em Algorithm (see GT ad) helps you to avoid that blunder. In this regard, I also like Epstein’s Hi-Lo concept: One high card (an honor card) combined with one low card in the hole should be folded, even if suited.

Epstein also refers to this as “half-a-hand;” folding such hole cards is the wise decision. Wait until you are dealt a “full hand.” (Note: A-rag suited may be an exception from a late position if there is no raise.)

On the flop: Likewise, folding a poor hand can save you lots of precious chips. Having been dealt a drawing hand that must improve to have a reasonable chance of winning the pot, more often than not your hand will not improve enough to warrant calling a bet on the flop.

For example, with two unpaired cards in the hole, expect to pair up 1 out of about 3 hands. Most of the time, the flop will not help your hand. In that case, usually it’s best to save your chips by folding – unless everyone checks. Never refuse a free card.

Many players have difficulty discerning if the flop helped their hands enough to warrant calling to see the turn. I use the 6-Outs Rule. If I don’t have at least six outs after the flop, usually it is best to fold my hand rather than invest more chips in that pot.

Even with six outs, consider folding if there is any raising, depending on the player making the raise and the immediate situation. The chips you don’t lose by folding are just as valuable as those you win.

Turn and river: As the bets get bigger, decisions can become much more expensive. To decide whether folding is in your best interests, the card and pot odds are important.

Example: In a $4-$8 limit game, you saw the flop holding 9-8 suited, and caught 7-5-2 rainbow for an inside straight draw. Now you have just 4 outs (the four sixes).

Use the 4-2 Rule: 4 x 4 = 16. So, your card odds are about 84 (100-16) divided by 16 – approximately 5-to-1 against you. It’s a $4 bet into, say, a pot containing only $12 (after the rake); that’s pot odds of only 3-to-1, much less than your card odds. Calling would yield a Negative Expectation, suggesting you save your chips by folding!

The implied pot odds are more important! How many chips can you reasonably expect in the pot at the showdown, including those likely to be added by your opponents during later rounds of betting? Compare this to your cost to call the current bet. If your card odds are still higher than the implied pot odds, save your chips by folding.

Sound advice from poker guru John Vorhaus: “Let your knowledge of the odds give you a reason to fold, not to call.” (Ref.: “Killer Poker – Strategy and Tactics for Winning Poker Play;” published 2002; contact: [email protected])

We invite your comments. Email to [email protected].

 GamingToday on Facebook      and         GamingToday on Twitter