Most of poker is folding. If you’re at a full handed table, it’s difficult to play more than 30% of your hands and be profitable; most professionals fall closer to 20% of hands played. This means that the bulk of your time at the table is spent folding and watching the action go by. Knowing when to fold is a crucial skill in poker.
That’s the first thing to realise about folding is just because you’re out of the hand, it doesn’t mean your work is over. While it’s tempting to zone out during the hands you’ve folded — nobody watches every pot they’re not actively a part of — if you want to have an edge in the games you’re playing, you have to observe your opponents’ habits as much as possible and there is no better time than when you don’t have to concentrate on winning a pot.
When you should raise or fold pre-flop, this is usually established by your ‘opening ranges’ (the pre-established range of hands you’ll enter the pot with) based on your stack size, position, and those of players yet to act. Opening ranges provide a blueprint for which hands you’ll play in certain situations, but should be considered flexible. For example,if all the players behind you are weak, you should widen your opening range.
When you should fold post flop is usually determined by how much equity you have in the hand and the likelihood of your hand being the best out there based on a combination of the board texture and your opponents’ betting patterns. It can be easy to tell when draws should be folded (it’s usually a straight forward mathematics question involving how many outs you have versus the pot odds that your receiving, combined with the less certain implied odds you’ll have should you hit) but discerning when to fold hands with showdown value is tougher. Again, it helps to watch the hands you don’t play, since you’ll have a better sense of peoples’ betting patterns and hand strengths. You’ll have to call down players who fire multiple barrels with a mix of bluffs and value hands, but fold to the tight players who don’t bet without having the goods.
If a situation is close between calling and folding, it’s useful to consider any reads that you’ve picked up from your opponent. Do they look comfortable? Are they staring directly at you, or down at the board? When they speak are they doing so confidently or stuttering their speech? Are they holding their breath, or perhaps their hands are shaking? It’s up to you to work out what all these things mean and the best way to do this is to watch what happens in hands after you folded.
An example of knowing when to fold
Check out this instructional video that shows a high stakes cash game involving British duo Andy Moseley and Sam Trickett where Trickett makes a solid fold. Would you have played the hand differently? If so, how? Let us know in the comments box below.