What is “Fold Equity” in poker and why should I consider it before betting? Basically “Fold Equity” in poker is the percentage of times your opponents will fold once you make a bet. Fold equity is an idea in Texas Hold’em poker strategy that is particularly significant when a poker player becomes short-stacked in a Texas Hold’em poker tournament. Fold Equity is the part of the pot a player can expect to win because an opponent folded to their wager.
The younger generation of poker players have become more resourceful than just the old school semi-bluffing with hands that would otherwise be folded if considered solely from the perspective of the hand’s chances of improving to the best hand on future betting rounds.
That’s why you often see good poker players raise with otherwise suspect hands with poker hands with potential, they can place a bet even though their hand is not the greatest at that time, with a good chance of their opponent folding or drawing the cards they need to beat any opponents who do call.
You need to understand basic poker strategy and poker rules, but you still need to improve your creativity regarding folding hands without considering your chances to improving your hand as the poker hand progresses. This is the reason good players raise even though their hands are suspect.
The fold equity concept applies to all types of poker including Texas Hold’em Poker. The concept works best when you can figure out how much to bet in a no-limit game. This concept is used often in poker tournaments because the various stack sizes makes it easier to determine your fold equity.
Below is a list of 10 key factors to remember when you combine the concept of “fold equity” with the poker odds of improving your hand, if you have the chance to upgrade your poker hand to something worthy of playing.
10 Essential Fold Equity Factors You Must Consider Before Betting
#1. You must consider if your opponent is willing to fold after limping in or giving up their blinds. Raising is better if my opponent is stubborn and wants to see a cheap flop. You must decide if your opponent is capable of folding a pocket pair, middle pair or top pair. If they are, your fold equity is better than calling. Be cautious of calling stations.
#2. You must understand the different factors that make up the poker hand of your opponent. The main concept is how many of my opponents will fold if I raise or bet. What range of hands would they play?
#3. Fold equity increases when you have a tight table image because your opponents assume your hand is good. Fold equity will decrease and not be as believable if I have raised or bet on a lot of pre-flops or flops lately.
#4. You will gain more fold equity by raising in early position rather than placing a button raise based on what you believe is your hand strength. Your opponent may believe you are stealing the blinds with a raise in the late position.
#5. In poker tournaments, the size of your stack is very important because it lessens according to the blinds. If your opponent or yourself is below 20-30 big blinds, your opponent must consider both your current and future bets. This means all of their stack may need to be bet. They have to decide if using all their chips is worth continuing to play.
#6. Another concept relevant to poker tournaments is an opponent with a short-stack may raise with just a couple of big blinds behind. There is not much equity in a re-raise here because your opponent will be short enough to become pot committed. Your fold equity will be greater if you put everything in pre-flop when the stack is medium sized. Fold equity decreases if you bet into a desperate short stack or a monster stack.
#7. You must remember your fold equity decreases when there are more players in the hand. The more players, the better the chance you will be raised or called. This encompasses continuation betting and raising limpers prior to the flop. Even when you want to bluff, you must consider the decrease in your success rate due to the extra players.
#8. Your bet must be believable, that you are holding the hand you have represented as opposed to bluffing the river. Your story must be accurate to increase both your success rate and fold equity.
#9. As a tournament player, you must recognize during the bubble stage your raise or bet will have a lot more fold equity. This includes any major pay jump, the final table bubble and the money bubble. You have to know your opponents and choose those attempting to creep right into the money. Attack the short stacks while in position.
#10. A bigger bet does not always mean you will receive more folds. Some opponents will see a bigger bet as a bluff and call you more often. You must remember to size your bets mathematically to ensure your long-term value is high and you have the most possible fold equity. In a lot of instances, you should place a smaller bet when you believe your opponent is going to fold regardless of the size of the bet.
Fold Equity and Pre-Flop All-In in Poker Tournaments
There are going to be situations in poker tournaments where you have to decide if you want to go all-in. You need to consider the remaining opponents and what you believe are their calling ranges prior to thinking about your own poker hand. This will help you calculate your fold equity.
Bet Sizing and Post Flop Play
You’ll need to consider all of the factors listed above to estimate the percentage that your opponent will fold prior to placing your bet.
An example of receiving a flush from the river. I will give my opponent a poker hand with a top pair. If I have read the situation correctly, my opponent will believe I am bluffing fifteen percent of all my hands. This means my opponent will fold 85 percent of their hands.
The best way to provide the positive expected value to your bluff is by sizing your bet to ensure the odds of the pot are going to make calling an unprofitable decision for your opponents. When your bet is half of the pot, your opponents will have three-to-one odds. This means they are going to believe they are ahead 25 percent of the time or one of every four hands. Since you should believe your opponents will think you have bluffed fifteen percent of your hands, your bet size will make a profit during the long term due to your fold equity.
You should realize fold equity can be dangerous. Numerous weak opponents use this concept to convince themselves to play a hand they should have folded. These players simply do not understand fold equity. Also realize you have no fold equity when playing against a player who you just cannot bluff and who rarely folds. In this situation, only place a bet when you are holding a good hand. You know your cannot bluff your opponent but you can make money on every wager.
You have to take the time to understand all the factors of fold equity because this poker concept is important. I have seen opponents of every skill level (many that play in the WSOP) overlook this important concept. Some players continue to perform the same actions simply hoping the other players will fold. Instead of considering whether or not their bets will lead to success, they keep playing aggressively.
Although aggression can be beneficial, blind aggression is a major flaw. I have made these 10 fold equity factors to remind myself never to bet or check blindly because you think an opponent is strong or weak. You must also consider the percentage of hands your opponent folds to a raise or a bet and their poker hand range. You must always factor in fold equity and be aware how much you have at any given time.
Fold Equity – FAQ
What is fold equity in poker?
Fold equity is the equity a player can expect to gain due to the opponent folding to his or her bets. It's most important when you're short stacked.
How is fold equity calculated?
A lot depends on your opponent and their style of play, but it's how much you stand to gain if they fold.
What is bluff equity?
This is just another way of referring to fold equity. I almost never hear this phrase at the poker tables.
What is plus EV in poker?
This means you're making profitable decisions. If you're a +EV poker player, then you're going to to a long-term winner.