Fold Equity

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As poker grows in popularity, so will the competition and so will the need to stay ahead in the game. Amongst the plethora of strategies, fold equity is one concept in poker strategy.

Let’s take a step back and look at what betting on your hand means in terms of winning the pot:

  1. The best hand at showdown wins or
  2. You win immediately by getting your opponent to fold

As players there are often times you make your move hoping for the latter. Fold Equity is defined as the percentage of times that an opponent folds to your bet.

The concept of fold equity did derive itself from semi-bluffing, a bet made with a hand that’s probably not the best, but does stand a chance of outdrawing any opponents who call. When you add the idea of fold equity to whatever your chances are of improving to the best hand, it might raise a hand from one that would otherwise be a loser to one that’s worth playing.

Fold equity certainly gives players a chance to play their hands creatively. The very same hand would be folded if you go by the rulebook of the hand improving its chances in the future rounds of betting. This is possibly why you see the experienced players raise with the not so usual suspects. The math behind it, if the current hand has a 45% shot of winning, but has a 18% chance of inducing the opponent to fold, that increases your odds to 63%.

While the concept of fold equity applies to all forms of poker, it is much more prevalent in no-limit games where you can determine the size of your bet. It is also applied frequently in tournament poker as the variations in stack sizes can determine how much fold equity you have.

Factors that influence your Fold Equity

Who are you on the table/What’s your table image?

The tighter your table image, the higher your fold equity, because the table will assume you have a good hand. On the other hand, if you’ve been raising a lot pre-flop or betting and raising flops, your story may not be as believable and will reduce your fold equity.

What’s your Opponent’s table image?

Playing to the advantage of your fold equity also requires you to keep a keen eye on your opponents. Is your opponent willing to fold even after they’ve limped in? Do they hold onto their blinds? If so, a raise has more fold equity. Are they capable of folding top pair, middle or pocket pairs? If so, betting against them has greater fold equity.

What’s your Opponent’s Hand Range?

When it comes to fold equity, the main concept to keep in mind is “of all the hands in my opponent’s range, how many of them will fold if I bet or raise.”

What’s your position?

Early position: A raise in this position will definitely garner more fold equity, than raising on the button simply for the perceived strength of hand range.

Late position: raise may be seen as simply stealing the blinds.

The Stack Sizes

Stack sizes in relation to the blinds are increasingly important in tournament play when it comes to fold equity. If a short stacked opponent raises leaving only a few big blinds behind, a re-raise here is not going to have much fold equity. Similarly, shoving all-in pre-flop into a medium sized stack that you can do damage to will have more fold equity than if you shove into a monster stack or a desperate short stack.

The Number of Opponents

Simple math, the more the people in a hand, the lesser the fold equity. The odds of someone calling or raising go up as you increase the number of players in the pot.

The Stage of the Tournament

Betting or raising during the bubble stage for any tournament player will have more fold equity. The bubble stage could be the money bubble, the final table bubble or even if there are major pay jumps.

Bet Sizing

Your bet size is crucial and bigger the bet doesn’t necessarily mean more the folds. You should aim to mathematically size your bets so that you have the most fold equity and also the highest long-term expected value. In fact the higher percentage you think your opponent will fold, the smaller you can make your bet.

Conclusion

A game of poker is ever dynamic and it’s important to evolve your game to adapt to situations and competition. However, poker players do get in the comfort zone with their actions and they often get robotic. While aggression is good, blind aggression can lead you down the slippery slope. There is no such thing as luck, got to work harder folks!

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