Folding is the least sexy topic in poker. Folding is just so…final. Your cards hit the muck, you concede the pot to your opponent, and you’re off to the next hand.
But the honest truth is that poker players fall into two main categories:
1. Players that fold far too often
2. Players that fold far too rarely
There is a third type of player though. A rare-breed of player that folds a correct amount of the time and keeps their continuance frequency right on track.
That’s the kind of player I want you to become.
There are times to fold. But those times are less plentiful than most players would assume. Thus why most players have massively incorrect folding frequencies.
So then, you are most certainly wondering, how often SHOULD you fold?
Well first let’s understand what folding really does:
Folding relinquishes 100% of your equity
A gutshot is a hand that most players fold facing bets or raises on the turn. But even against a strong pair, or even two pair, that gutshot has some equity – some chance of winning the pot. By folding, you take the percentage chance of that gutshot winning the hand and make it a big fat 0%.
Folding too often makes you a target
If you only get to showdown with monster hands, you likely fold too often early in hands. Good players are always looking to attack players who fold too often, since they are easy to bluff and pressure.
Folding doesn’t force your opponent to show up with something
Let’s be honest, with only 2 hole cards it’s tough to make a pair – yet alone a big hand!
By folding against barrels you don’t force your opponent to get to showdown and actually prove that they have the big hand they are representing. By folding on the flop or turn you don’t force your opponent to fire the next barrel to really prove that hit something.
In essence, folding is for quitters. And most tight players quit too often, especially near the turn & river. Most fishy players quit too rarely, and they bring WAY too much junk to showdown.
Your goal is to be in the middle.
One of the 2 poker rules you need to live by is that if you call on one street, you should usually continue on the next street. If we take ‘usually’ to mean ‘about 70% of the time’, that inherently means we should be folding around 30% of the time when facing bets.
But are most players really doing that?
Let’s look at a few examples where most players are folding too often (and if any of these spots seem like spots where you used to fold too often as well, we can keep that secret between us):
Giving Up Against Flop CBs
This is a very common spot. Jared raises preflop, Greg calls. On the flop Greg checks to the aggressor, Jared makes a typical CB, and Greg normally folds.
If Greg calls preflop with a pretty typical BB defense range including hands like A5s, ATo, 22-TT, T8s, etc. and only continues against this CB with pairs & decent draws – Greg would actually be folding 63% of the time.
But remember a moment ago when we said people should only be folding around 30% of the time if they called on the previous street?
On top of that, think about the equity that Greg leaves on the table. AJo has 26% equity against 88 and 14% equity against QQ. But AJo has 0% equity when it hits the muck.
Takeaway: In order to fold less often, you need to defend with hands you would have otherwise folded in the past. Bluff players who refuse to defend properly.
Folding Too Often Against 3bets
In this situation, you use your button and 3bet vs Brian, who opened in MP1 in a $2/$5 game.
If Brian opens 22+/AJ+/KQ and only gives your 3bet action with TT+/AK:
Brian is folding 69% of the time
If Brian opens 22+/AT+/KJ+/87s+ and only gives your 3bet action with TT+/AK:
Brian is folding 75% of the time
And if you hold an Ace or King blocker in your hand (like A4 or K9), Brian folds even just a bit more often…
Most players fold WAY too often facing preflop 3bets. Think about it. Even if we show up with AKs, one of the stronger hands in our 3betting range, Brian is folding hands like 66 (52% equity), AQo (25% equity), and AJs (29% equity).
Relinquishing 100% of your equity that often is a surefire way to not only leave part of the pot out on the felt – but also to make yourself a huge target for competent players.
Being Too Tight Against Double Barrels
Say Adrian calls a little wide preflop. Adrian, facing a CB on the flop, decides to continue with Ax, Tx, AT, 33, flush draws, and gutshots like 54 and KQ.
But on the turn, when facing an $80 bet, Adrian decides to only continue with top pair or better, flush draws, and 98/54.
Any idea how often Adrian is folding?
54% of the time on the turn!
Is that anywhere close to the ~30% fold frequency Adrian should have?
In order for Adrian to continue at a closer-to-correct number, he would need to add some extra hands to his continuance range. Hands like JJ, KT, QT, etc. fit the bill. But again, these are all hands Adrian is folding on the turn – hands that could easily be ahead, or at least have equity the times they are behind.
If Adrian only gives action on the turn & river with top pair or better, a very common thing for players to do, Adrian will constantly show up with a folding issue.
Adrian simply never forces Bryce to fire the 3rd barrel with a bluff, or to show up with a better hand than JT at showdown.
And that’s an issue in Adrian’s overall strategy…
Those are only 3 spots, but there are tons more like it. Everything from steals & 4bets preflop, to folding too often against check-raises, to folding too often against overbets on the river.
Here is the biggest takeaway I can give you.
Write it down.
Stop making decisions about whether or not to continue solely on some arbitrary hand strength (like “top pair+” or “middle pair+ and draws with 8+ outs”). Be sure that you continue often enough that you don’t allow your opponent to bluff you with impunity. Force your opponent to either fire the next shell (which happens less often than most players assume) or show up with the winner at showdown – all while actualizing your complete equity far more often.
OK, that was a lot to write down. But if you fully digest it, it will change your entire outlook on the game and prepare you for playing against more aggressive players as you move up.
Also be sure to look for players who are almost certainly not folding correctly. Bluff a ton when players give up too often (either in most spots, or just on specific textures), and bluff rarely when your opponent never folds and continues with too much trash.
A player’s folding frequency tells you everything you need to know about them, and tailoring your strategy to exploit them becomes a breeze.
And as for folding less yourself, remember that your goal is not to become a spewy fish.
You just want to protect your frequencies so that you don’t become an easy target AND choose the hands that you don’t fold with some poker intelligence. Prioritize higher-equity hands over hands with zero hope of winning, and only increase your fold frequency as a response to a frequency-issue in your opponent – not folding more because your hand “isn’t TPTK+.”
Over your next few sessions I want you to ask yourself two questions in every hand that you play:
1. Am I folding way more than 30% of the time here?
2. Is my opponent folding more than 50% of the time here?
Giving honest estimates to both will keep you focused on the right stuff.
Good luck out there!