The average poker player goes through a very similar path of progression.
They start as a fish who calls too often and folds too rarely. Then they get punished for that and eventually learn that they need to fold some of those junk hands. And then eventually they learn how to put those junk hands back into their ranges, at least sometimes, in smart spots to generate extra profit. The issue is that most TAG and Nit players are stuck in the middle – folding too often for their own good.
Well, let’s start with some basic math.
The Math Behind The Fold
Say villain bets ⅔ pot into you. Even without looking at the board, your cards, or hand reading them – they make an auto-profit if you fold more than 40% of the time. This is just a function of breakeven betting math, and you can read this entire BE poker math guide if you have no idea what this is.
If you only give that bet action with strong hands and chuck the rest away, chances are you are certainly folding more than half the time, and thus you allow villain to make an easy profit against you. Well, that’s not going to be a winning strategy.
Don’t believe me? Here is a clear example of a spot where most players are folding too often. Are you folding in this spot as well?
Playing $2/$5 you raise preflop to $20 and only the BB calls.
They check the flop, you CB, and they CR to $90.
Say you opened with 40% of hands preflop and then CB your entire range. If you only give the BB’s CR action with these hand strengths you would be folding this often:
TP+: 82% folding frequency
Middle Pair+: 68% folding frequency
Any Pair/Any BDFD: 44% folding frequency
How Does Folding Too Much Hurt You?
The issue is actually two-fold.
1. If you fold too often you allow your opponent to easily exploit you and generate outright profit in pots you play together.
2. If you continue folding too often, other players will notice and they will start exploiting you as well.
First, how often is too often? Of course, there is a large difference between folding 80% of the time, 50% of the time, and 25% of the time. In general, if you allow somebody to generate outright profit from you (meaning you fold more often than the BE of their bet size), you are folding too much. Especially since some of your folding range would actually either be ahead or have a chunk of equity, I’d say if you are routinely folding more than a third of the time you are doing so too often.
If you’ve read Ed Miller’s Poker’s 1% he actually outlines only folding about 30% of the time in many situations. So if you are consistently folding more than half the time (and many tighter players do), you are leaving money on the table.
Keep in mind that you should be abusing players who have the same issue. For more ideas on how to do this, sign up for my free webinar about exploiting OTHER player’s frequency issues.
Why Do Players Become Nitty?
This issue stems from the fact that players have lost hands in the past and now they see monsters under every single bed. Remember, we are playing against a range of hands and you have to think about your opponent’s entire range. Does their range really consist of only monster hands? Maybe if they are a nit. Maybe if they have zero bluff frequency. But not in most situations…
And here is the honest truth: you need TONS of solid info before you can pinpoint a player’s range at only being super-nutted. That doesn’t mean that super nutted hands aren’t in your opponent’s range. It just means that there are likely other hands in their range as well, and since there are only so many combos of super strong hands in a given range, any extra hands in their range begin to quickly drop in value.
So before you say “well, that raise can only be made with the nuts – I guess I’ll fold top pair here” again, think deeply about what they would really raise with.
Sure, if they 100% only raise with the nuts you actually exploit them by folding (since you never pay them off). But this is not the case as often as players think it is. Your opponent might raise TP to keep you from betting the river again. They might semi-bluff. They might think they spotted a tell on you…
You could fold and make the likely-false assumption that they only have the nuts when they raise. But you will only know that if you call it down more than a few times and see it.
Nits, TAGs, and other risk-averse poker players fold too much simply because they prefer a small loss over a big loss. But this mindset also keeps them from experiencing big wins!
And you want to know a little secret? Nits, TAGs, and risk-averse people LOVE folding in these spots for a very simple reason: they prefer a small loss over a big loss. But by implementing that mindset they also make it extremely difficult to generate big wins since they aren’t comfortable sometimes being wrong and feeling the sting of losing a buy-in. If you fear losing buy-ins, you are either under-rolled or dealing with a mental leak that you may not be aware of. Either way, recognize the issue and start patching it ASAP.
Fixing Your Over-Folding Issue
The quick fix here is simply to stop folding so much! Focus on their range, focus on their frequencies, and stop assigning ONLY the nuts in spots where there is no proof to back up that claim.
Of course, you do not want to fold 0%. But you can begin by continuing with marginal hands that have equity that you used to fold, but now recognize you are dumping too much equity. Hands like overcards, gutshots, and BDFDs fit the bill nicely. Especially when you are on the flop and have a variety of chances to fight for the pot, improve, etc.
Also remember that “not folding” doesn’t mean you have to just call!
You can also look for spots to apply the pressure right back to your opponent and re-raise them. Of course, consider the basic math and if you represent anything by re-raising – but remember that you have lots more options than just folding.
How Do You Get Better At This?
There are two major things that will help you feel more confident folding less AND create a legitimate strategy.
1. Know the math (especially breakeven %)
Those two points pretty much sum up everything in poker – but they are crucial in these situations. Once you can hand reading better it becomes MUCH easier to figure out what kind of range they are getting aggressive with. It becomes easier to estimate the density of nutted vs non-nutted combos in that range. And it gives you the confidence to pull that trigger and continue fighting for the pot.
The absolute best way to practice this is with one of my range building workbook. These workbooks guide you through hand reading exercises so you can work through range combos, blockers, densities, and more easily visualize ranges in real-time. At first, the work will seem complicated and cumbersome, but with time and practice, you will find yourself assigning the right ranges in the right spots.
And once you know their range, all they have is a prayer of exploiting you back!
Pick the workbook that fits your game and get started. Just remember, fold less, hand read more, and fight like hell for every pot. Enjoy and good luck!