AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

· Published 26.02.2021 · last updated 26.02.2021

Fold Equity Strategy

Fold Equity is an important concept in poker, albeit one that some would say shouldn’t be clouding the mind of those who haven’t yet travelled very far down the poker highway. While it is indeed debatable whether this is a subject for new or just more experienced players, I’m not an advocate of essentially ‘rationing’ players to certain aspects of the game while not discussing others. We all learn in different ways and at differing speeds, with some assimilating new ideas and concepts quicker than others. Consequently, there’s no need for an arbitrary order of the introduction of this or that element of the game,

So… Fold Equity is, in a nutshell, the additional equity we get when we think there is a possibility that our opponent will fold to our bet (or raise).

This, in fact, has considerable relevance because it has potential significance in every situation in which we can bet. There are, after all, only two ways to actually win a pot – either by having the best hand come showdown, or the opposition folding to our bet. Given that much of the time we won’t have the strongest hand, it follows that we should be looking to pick up chips with the only alternative option available to us, and to increase our chances of success we will simply have to bet.

There’s little choice in this matter – it’s absolutely not enough to expect that our strong hands alone will be enough to accumulate the chips we’ll need to progress in a tournament, for example.

Note that Fold Equity has nothing to do with the strength of our hand. Moreover, it’s the fact that we are definitely not going to win a pot on the strength of our hand that brings this concept into play. And the whole point is to push off the pot opponents who would otherwise be beating us.

Strong players use Fold Equity as a powerful weapon to turn an ostensibly negative situation into a positive one. Instead of passively giving up on those situations that most players would put down to the usual ‘mixed bag’ run of cards, such as putting the brakes on at the River after a missed draw, they see such a scenario as an opportunity to take the chips in the middle regardless.

Here’s a typical example:

We are dealt KsQs and, after a sole (and quite competent) opponent calls our pre-flop raise, we bet out when the Flop brings As9h5s and then again on the 7c Turn, but the arrival of the 2c on the River sees us miss the board completely. What to do?

The negative option would be to do nothing in the probably futile hope that a showdown sees our mere K-high take down the pot. It’s possible we’re ahead, but highly unlikely. That’s also the safest option.

Alternatively, we can give ourselves a good chance to win by betting. Of course, we’ve already set in place solid foundations in terms of representing a strong hand – we started aggressively right from the beginning, with a pre-flop raise, continuing in the same mode on the two subsequent streets. It’s imperative that our narrative is believable.

What we also need to take into account when evaluating the situation – and in determining what size bet might get the job done by inducing a fold – are factors such as our previously having shown down strong hands to accompany our aggressive plays. Additionally, we might also have observed that our opponent is willing to make ‘good’ folds, that they have a habit of chasing or have a range which could feasibly include a lesser hand here than those within the range we’re representing.

This is where Fold Equity requires us to weigh up the relevant factors and bet accordingly. If we think our opponent is relatively weak, then it might take only a modest but ‘confident’ bet. Conversely, if it’s more likely that they’ve come along for the ride thus far with a hand that’s strong but not strong enough to hold up against considerable pressure, it might take a bet of 2/3 the pot or even a shove.

Fold Equity isn’t the easiest of subjects to get your head around, and experience is obviously going to make it easier to navigate the usual murky poker waters (hence the fact that it’s hardly one of the first aspects of the game new players might study).

However, it’s a poker truism that all those times when we have very little or no chance of winning a pot with our hand, the ONLY opportunity will be through using Fold Equity by betting or raising.

Have fun!

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