The power of fold equity

Posted on by gambling guru

Fold EquityIn poker there is a large advantage in mastering odds and probabilities.The reason is that poker is a ‘statistical game’ like backgammon and unlike chess. As randomness plays a key role, you have to measure it to understand its effect and this is what probabilities do. In this vein one statistical concept deserves special attention: fold equity.

Literally, fold equity is the probability that your opponent will fold when you bet or raise the pot. Fold equity must be factored into your decisions as it directly affects the chance you have of winning a hand. Fold equity is based on a simple principle. If you have a hand that you are ready to call a bet with, then you should bet it yourself. This gives you two chances of winning. Of course you win with the best hand, but if your opponent folds you win too (even with the worse hand).

Fold equity is closely related to a capital concept of poker, namely aggression. Let’s say you will call all bets to the river, so that the strongest hand wins. If instead you were the one doing the betting, then you have a higher chance of winning that hand given fold equity. So being the aggressor instead of calling passively seems to inherently increase your win rate in poker.

To be honest this is a bit of a simplification because by being the aggressor you also take the risk of getting check-raised or trapped. In which case and assuming for illustration that you still call to the river, then you would have put more money into the pot, and as it is likely that you lose such a hand, you will lose more.

In other words fold equity adds to your win rate, but the risk of getting raised decreases your win rate. Nevertheless it is known that the net result of aggression is positive and this is why top players like Isildur1 or Ivey have an aggressive style. But the next step to boost your win rate is to know how to profile your opponents so that you identify the ones with the most fold equity. These are the ones you want to be aggressive against.

It is difficult to accurately assess the chances of getting a poker player to fold. For that you must consider many factors including the image he has of you. If he thinks that you are tight he is most likely to fold. It is the pressure you put on him which will also increase your fold equity. Note that so-called calling stations like the ones using a Carbon Poker bonus code have very low fold equity as they love to call all the time. Avoid bullying them, instead focus on some other players such as the rocks who will fold unless they have a monster.

By betting or raising you force your opponent to make a difficult decision that may lead him to fold his hand.Whether live or online at Titan Poker or another top room, many players try to stay in a hand by checking or calling.This usually indicates weak hands or players in a drawing position. With few exceptions, aggression should always be preferred in poker, as you can raise the pot, to eliminate the weak hands and create fold equity.

Fold equity becomes important at the end of a tournament where the stacks are small compared with the blinds and antes. It is often said that if you have less than 10BB, you must switch to push or fold. It is mathematically true of course, but without fold equity, mathematics will not be of much help.

Depending on the time of the tournament, your fold equity will vary. At the beginning of the tournament, the players’ stacks are large so players are more inclined to persist in their hands. Your fold equity is then lower. But some players tend to play very tight to avoid compromising their chances early on. Your fold equity against this type of player is higher, so identify them as soon as possible. At the end of the tournament near the bubble most players tend to play very tight to make the money. Fold equity is very high at this time and aggression is a must.

Master fold equity and your bankroll will thank you.

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