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Home > Poker Strategy > When To Fold

Poker Strategy - Hold'em or Fold'em?

Note: This article is only about Fixed-Limit Hold'em

Most decent players have a pretty good understanding about when to fold preflop. The decision you make preflop is a crucial one, and is covered extensively on this site (see Limit Longhand and Dynamic Hand Value). Simply put, you want to play premium hands preflop. In terms of marginal hands, you want to play suited connectors/small pairs more when it is a multi-way pot and less so when it is about three people seeing the flop. For big cards such as AJ or KT, the opposite is the case. Be more willing to play these hands in a heads up or three way situation. Always fold garbage hands like Q5 offsuit.

Again, these preflop decisions are important, but they are not the whole story. There are three rounds of betting postflop, and the decisions you make are not automatic. Surely, pot odds will help you, especially if you are on a draw, but what do you do if you have a made hand but are unsure of where you are in the hand?

For example, suppose you have AJs and the flop is QJ2. The pot was raised preflop, and you have pot odds to go ahead and call the flop. What do you do on the turn? Again, this is a judgment call. If someone bets the turn and someone raises and another player calls, you can be rest assured that your jacks are not good and go ahead and fold. However, what if someone bets, everyone else who is still in folds and it's to you? What is the correct decision?

Small Mistakes vs. Big Mistakes

In Limit Hold'em, the bets are a small fraction of the pot. This encourages action because it is cheaper to see a showdown. This aspect of Limit appeals to fish and new players who like to 'see cards.'

Most bad players lose money at Limit Hold'em over time and not one any one big hand. This is because they continually make small mistakes. They call when they do not have pot odds, or they continue to call when they are clearly beat. Every time you call when you shouldn't, you are making a small mistake.

A big mistake at Limit Hold'em is folding when you should not have. I do not mean folding early and then later finding out you would have hit a miracle river. I mean folding when you have the best hand late in the pot. For example, suppose you have AQ. The board is KQ2 rainbow. You raised the pot preflop and there were 3 callers (8 small bets). It is checked around to you. You bet, someone raises, 2 people call, you call. A 5 falls on the turn. The raiser bets, the other players fold.

Right now, there are a total of 18 small bets in the pot (8 preflop, 8 flop, 2 turn- remember a big bet is equivalent to two small bets). What should you do? You are probably beat. However, if you call on the turn and the river, you will invest a total of 4 small bets. If you call to the river, there will be a total of 24 small bets in the pot, so you must win this pot 1/6 or more of the time in order for a call down to be appropriate. Assuming you have 5 outs (which is not the case if he has KQ or AK but let's just assume), you have a 12% chance of drawing out. So, you roughly have a 1/8 chance of winning because you draw out. In this case, you only need to be roughly 4% confident that you have him beat (1/6-1/8). This is very small indeed!

Thus, you should probably go ahead and call down, even though you probably are beat. However, many weak-tight players will fold this, which is a disaster if the other player is bluffing or is on a draw.

So When to Fold?

Basically, there are two major decisions to be made at Limit Hold'em. The first is preflop, whether to play your hand or not, and the second decision is to be made on the turn. The flop decision is not that important because most of the time you will just be making or calling a small bet; this is a decision that can be made almost entirely based on pot odds.

The second major decision is on the turn. Assuming you call the turn, you should call the river because it would be a disaster to fold the winning hand on the river. Calling the turn and the river means investing 2 big bets, equivalent to 4 small bets. Assuming the pot is raised preflop and just one bet is made postflop, you would have only invested 3 bets to see the turn. Thus, you can fold at the turn and lose slightly less than half the money you would have lost had you called to a showdown.

The river is not the time to fold your hand. The only exceptions to this are when you missed a draw (such as a small flush draw) or if there is so much betting and raising that you know you are beat.