What is Fold-Equity and how Does it Affect your Poker Tournament Strategy

Understanding How And When To Use Fold-Equity In Tournament Poker, Made Simple!

In its most simple form ‘Fold-Equity’ in poker describes your ability to get an opponent to fold their hand, and the monetary value this has based on the size of the pot in play. The usual reason for folding is a big bet, however correctly assessing when you do and (importantly) do not have the possibility of making an opponent fold their hand is a skill that many beginning players overlook. This article will look into the subject by taking various common situations and asking – Do we have fold-equity here??

We will start the discussion by looking at short-staked poker tournament play, and the vitally important role of pot-odds in fold-equity. Next we bring the tendencies of specific opponents into the discussion before looking at flop ‘texture’ and your own hand.

Poker Fold-Equity - And Example And The Simple Pot-Odds Math Behind It

Imagine this common scenario, you have reached the mid to late stages of a poker tournamentAfter losing a couple of pots you find yourself short-stacked, with only 6 big blinds. You are on the button with a medium strength hand, and a reasonably tight player with a reasonable stack opens the pot ahead of you by betting 3 times the big blind.

The question is whether you have the ability to make this player fold with an all-in bet? In other words – do you have fold-equity here?

To keep the numbers simple we will assign you 6,000 chips, the raiser 20,000 and put the blinds at 1,000 / 500. So the raise is 3,000 chips making the total pot 4,500, assuming the blinds will fold your all-in raise makes the pot 10,500 in total – and it will cost the initial raiser another 3000 to call.

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From the raisers perspective he is getting odds of more than 3/1 – this means for his call to show a profit over time he needs to win around 25% of the time. The fact is that compared to the range of hands a short-stack might re-raise with he will usually win far more than this – the call is easy with any hand that legitimately raised in the first place. You have no fold-equity in this situation, the only reason for making this move is because you consider your hand a favorite to win a showdown.

Now we increase your stack to 10 times the big blind and look at the situation again. Now your all in bet makes the pot (including the blinds) 14,500, for the big stack to call he would need to put in another 7,000 chips. Here his odds are > 2/1. Again an easy call with the majority of legitimate raising hands (though he might throw away some of the very weakest).

In order to cut the pot-odds that the raiser sees to a point where he will fold more hands than he will call with we need to increase our own bet to 12 times the blind.

Of course, you may well have a hand you would like to show down – in which case your options are far wider. However, the rule is – If you would ideally like your opponent to fold then look at the price (in terms of pot-odds) that you are offering them to call your re-raise.

Poker Fold Equity

Poker Fold Equity - Taking The Individual Player Into Account

Some opponents are more likely to fold than others. A timid, tight player offers you far better opportunities in terms of fold equity than a wild and loose one. Make a note throughout the tournament of those players you see open a pot with a raise and then fold when someone re-raises. The knowledge that a player is ‘capable of folding’ is a valuable asset as the tournament gets into the later stages.

Fold-equity can also work later in the hand. In the same example as above we can imagine that, instead of re-raising before the flop, you call and see a flop. Now the ‘texture’ of the flop – combined with the chips you have left – make a difference to your fold equity. Flops with high-cards are far more likely to have hit an opponent, those with draws to straights or flushes may also give someone enough reason to stick around in the hand.

Finally, your own image at the table affects your ability to get opponents to fold. If you have been active lately, playing many pots, then opponents may be more willing to call your bets. If you have been super-tight your ability to get opponents to fold is maximized.

Poker Fold Equity - Summing Up Your Strategy Adjustments

To summarize, next time an opponent calls your all-in bet with a medium strength hand review the betting from their perspective. You will often find that the pot-odds on offer to them made the call an easy one with any legitimate raising hand. Learning to spot these situations in advance – and adapting your own play accordingly will win more chips over time. Further adapting to the tendencies of specific opponents and your own table image will ensure that you get the maximum benefit from the concept of fold equity.

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