When Folding Is A Costly Poker Leak

This live $2/$3 hand sent in by Arash provides an example of how nitty play can seriously cut into our poker profit. Facing an open from a player in middle position, Arash decides to defend the big blind with T♠8♠. This is kind of a gross spot due to Villain’s starting stack of 50bb. We’re getting 1.67:1 on our call which in percentage terms is about 37%. So the critical question is “Are you going to win this pot at least 37% of the time?” If yes, then go ahead and get involved; if no, just fold.

STAKE: $1/$3 Live

There are a couple of reasons why it’s going to be tough to win here. We’re out of position and we have a hand that typically is going to need to see all five board cards. So while I don’t like to fold pretty hands, it’s probably better just to dump this hand preflop. If we had deeper stacks and position, this hand becomes much more playable.

As played, Arash calls preflop, flops middle pair, and decides to check-call. Looking at this from a frequency-based approach like in Poker’s 1%, the general rule is that if you call on one street you should usually call on the next. In this specific spot, T8 is at the bottom of the continuance range, but it is a hand we should usually take to the turn. T8 is ahead often enough, and has some equity when it’s behind.

The turn card is the greatest card in the world! The 8 gives us two pair. Hero checks, faces an overbet shove, and folds.

This is a pretty bad fold. The only question we need to ask ourselves here is “Are we ahead enough of the time given we’re getting 1.6-to-1 on a call?” In other words, are we good here 40% of the time or more? It’s actually pretty hard to imagine that we are behind here very often at all. Sure there are some combinations that crush us like top set and QJ for the straight, but there are loads of combinations that we’re beating.

Arash shared the following table talk:

“Villain later mentioned that he had AJo but since he mucked I am not sure about that. Was this fold justified or was I too conservative?” The fact he claims he pushed on the turn with just an Ace is not very believable to me.”

In my opinion, AJ is completely believable. Let’s look at the situation from Villain’s point of view. On the turn, he has top pair with an open-ended straight draw and will feel pretty comfortable with that.

Also, what is Villain going to do with AK or AQ here? They typically figure they are currently good, but the board is getting messier with straight and flush draws, so they shove. Lots of bad players get overly-nervous and ship here to protect. And what if Villain had diamonds? They might look at this spot and figure it was a good bluffing opportunity.

So I don’t think that AJ is unreasonable here, and I don’t think this is necessarily a spot where Villain would overbet the turn with sets or straights. In other words, I’m reducing the number of really strong combos I expect Villain to play this way. This inevitably increases the density of second-best hands in Villain’s range.

Will Hero lose this hand sometimes? Sure, but not nearly often enough to fold this turn. If you fold two-pair here, you’re simply folding way too often from a frequency point of view. When your opponent is behind here they’ll often have some equity, but this is a spot where folding is far too nitty.

If you want to find out why being too nitty will make you a really bad poker player, check out this article. Basically overly nitty decisions leave loads of money on the table and destroy your win-rate. If you’ve made any folds in the last month that you feel may have been too tight, this article will be great for you.

And if you want to delve deeper into frequency-based decisions in poker, my course on Poker’s 1% is for you.

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