When people think of important poker skills to master, folding often takes a back seat. Many players want to learn to master the more aggressive skills in the game but to be a great all-rounder, you will need to master the art of a good fold. Folding not only teaches you how to control your emotions at the table, but it can also cut back your losses, and in the long run, help to improve your overall winning percentage. In this guide, we are taking you everything you need to know about folding including when to do it, how to force your opponent to do it, and more. 

Things to Consider Before Folding

Betting Range of Your Opponent

Before you make any decisions, you should always consider the hand that your opponent could have. You can always make informed judgments on your opponent’s betting range and what decisions they are likely to make. You can do this by assessing how they have played their hands throughout the game, including which hands they have folded on, what have they have bet on, and any previous bluffs they have attempted. 

Pot Odds

Another key factor in your decision is going to be the pot odds. Before you fold, you will want to work your pots adds against the size of your opponent’s bet. Understanding your pot odds will help you know what percentage of the time you will need to be correct. For example, in a full pot bet from your opponent, you will need to be correct 33% of the time to be able to win. 

Strength of Your Hand

Understanding the strength of your own hand is a major factor when it comes to folding. You don’t want to be folding hands that are fantastic and provide you with plenty of winning potential. Doing this can also lead to you being exploited by tougher opposition. Likewise, you also need to be able to recognize a weak hand early on and fold pre-flop. Players who learn and adopt a GTO approach should be able to master the art of this simply by sticking to the proven method. 

Tells of Your Opponent

Of course, as with all poker strategies, you will need to have a thorough understanding of the people you are up against. Having a good idea of your opponent’s playing style and habits will help you determine the strategy you want to take. What are your opponent’s tells and how can you exploit them? Being able to spot when your opponent is bluffing or not can get you out of a sticky situation or two. 

professional poker game. Green poker table with two games. poker player folds by throwing cards on the table

Folding Pre-flop

In many cases in poker, players will find themselves folding pre-flop. As you can see from the hands chart, folding pre-flop is actually recommended a lot of the time. While playing hands pre-flop can be very tempting, it is often not the best move and can leave you high and dry later in the game. 

As tempting as this is, the best strategy is to fold all of the hands that you are supposed to be folding. The only time when this can be broken is when you are playing a more exploitative game and you want to take advantage of your opponent’s tendencies and gameplay style. 

Folding Post-Flop

Understanding when to fold post-flop is going to come down to a number of different factors. The approach you are taking to the game is going to have a big impact on how and when you fold in the game. 

Those who like to take a game theory optimal (GTO) approach to the game may find it easier to know when to fold. One method they can employ is called Minimum Defense Frequency. This is a method that players can use to determine how much of their range they should continue with, factoring in their opponent’s bet. Working out MDF is typically done using the following equation – pot size / (pot size + bet size). 

If, however, you are playing a more aggressive approach against a weaker opponent, then you may want to take a different approach. MDF is often the best course of action against stronger, more experienced opponents as it can provide you with a baseline to know which hands to fold. 

Folding Top Pair

For many players, holding a top pair in their hands and folding would feel wrong. There are many times, however, when folding a top pair is actually the best thing to do, especially if you are following minimum defense frequency. 

If, for example, you have an opponent that calls on the flop and turns and then makes a big bet on the river, there is a chance that you have a weaker hand and you should fold. A player becoming aggressive all of a sudden is often an indication in these circumstances. Likewise, if someone keeps firing massive bets in the game and you find yourself under pressure, folding the top pair may be the best idea. 

Forcing Opponents to Fold

When you boil poker down to its basics, there are two main ways of winning a game – beating your opponent in a showdown or getting them to fold their hand before this. Knowing how and when to take an aggressive approach and force your opponent’s hand is an incredibly useful skill. 

A key element to this is understanding fold equity and how it works. In its simplest terms, fold equity is the value gained by you taking aggressive action that could possibly result in your opponent folding their hand. To get a better understanding of fold equity, with plenty of examples of how to use it, check out our detailed fold equity guide. 

As with many skills in poker, forcing your opponent’s hand can also be dependent on some successful bluffing. Experience players will be able to understand their fold equity and use it to manipulate the game with some well-timed bluffs. To do this, you will need to understand how and when to bluff, which is something you can master in our detailed poker bluffing guide. 

professional poker game. Green poker table with two games. poker player folds by throwing cards on the table

Conclusion

Knowing how and when to fold in a game of poker can often be a great way of saving your bankroll and helping you to boost your overall winnings in the long run. That said, it is always important to consider all of the possible outcomes in any given situation. In some cases, as we have discussed, there may be no sensible alternative to folding, while in others, there could be other options depending on the kind of villain you find yourself up against. 

Hopefully, this article has helped you work out the best times to fold and the best times to reconsider. As always, practice makes perfect so good luck out there. 

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