Learning How to Fold
Folding is, to put it succinctly, not a lot of fun. When you fold, you can no longer influence the action, win the pot or (in most cases) get to see the cards your opponent was holding. That's a pretty frustrating list, and it explains why most players are so loathe to fold - especially later on in the hand.
It turns out, however, that playing profitable poker isn't always the same thing as having fun when you're playing poker. Folding may not be a lot of fun, but if that's how everyone feels you can be sure that the majority of players simply aren't folding enough. The way that you can gain an edge from that knowledge is simple: Fold more.
In this poker strategy article, we're going to outline a few common situations where folding instead of calling could really improve your bottom line over time. We're not saying you should always fold in these situations - instead, the point of this article is just to get you thinking about some spots in your game where folding might be a better fit than continuing on with the hand. With that caveat out of the way, let's continue on with our examination of why the weakest play in all of poker might your strongest option far more often than you think.
Folding Opportunity One: The Blinds
Almost everyone plays too many hands out of the blinds - especially the small blind. The small blind is arguably the weakest position at the table, never getting to close the action on any street. That means you'll always be at a positional disadvantage playing from the small blind and - as we discuss in another article - any time you know you're going to be in such a position, you should significantly raise your hand standards. While the big blind isn't a spot you can always avoid playing from, resist the temptation to call raises from that seat with weak and speculative hands. Just because you have some money in the pot already doesn't mean you have to chase that money.
During your next session, just try to call 20% fewer hands (four instead of five) than you normally would call out of the blinds. We doubt you'll notice much of a difference in how you feel about the game or how your opponents think of you, but you will likely see one important change: A few more bucks in your bankroll at the end of session.
Folding Opportunity Two: Calling Early Position Raises
There's nothing wrong with calling an early position raise with the right hands from the later seats like the cutoff and the button. However, calling these raises preflop (or even limping in when there's no raise in front) when you're in an early or middle seat is a good way to burn money needlessly. Many players like to call these raises with small pairs or small connected cards, hoping to hit a big flop, but they're not thinking it through: When you call in early seats, you have no idea how the action behind you is going to develop. You have no idea if the pot will be heads up or multi-way, nor how big the pot is likely to be. These are both pieces of information you need in order to show a profit from playing speculative hands, so if you're calling instead of folding with such hands when you lack that critical information, you're probably losing money.
Folding Opportunity Three: Weak Draws Multi-Way
The following scenario should sound familiar to most readers: You play a weak suited Queen or Jack from the blinds after half the table or more calls an early preflop raise. You flop a non-nut flush draw, but there are a lot of players in the hand and many of them continue to the turn. There's more betting on the turn but the pot is so big you feel you can't get away. A handful of players stick around to the river. You make your flush, but the action remains heavy. You feel like you're beat, but you're getting decent odds, so you call it off.
Are you ever holding the best hand in that spot? Maybe once in a great while, but most of the time you'll be shaking your head, mucking your cards and pushing your chip stacks over to an opponent. Your problem wasn't the river - it was calling with the weak hand preflop in the first place. Your next problem, however, was more critical: Failing to consider how weak your draw really was in a multi-way pot. With so many players continuing in the hand, the chance that one of them holds a stronger flush draw is pretty significant - a fact that really dents the potential earning power of your weak draw.
Just because you flop some sort of draw doesn't mean that you have to see it through to the river. Remember, a draw is something you want to chase when you're getting the right price against the right opponent. The more opponents you have, and the weaker the draw you hold, the more you should be thinking about ways to exit, rather than continue with, the hand.
There are probably dozens and dozens of spots similar to the above in your game, and it's well worth your time to draw up a list before you play your next session. Finding more folds in your regular game is a smart, relatively easy way to play more profitable poker. Let everyone else make the hero calls and get the (occasional) glory - they're playing for ego, but you're playing to win the money. Which player would you rather be?