During the final table of 2008 WSOP Event #1 ($10,000 Pot Limit Hold’em Tournament), I was faced with a hand where I had to make a very difficult decision. Halfway through the final table, the blinds are $20,000/$40,000. When I got a pair of tens in middle position, I had about $2.2 million in chips. I raised the pot to $110,000 when Mike Sexton, who was about $100,000 behind me, called me from the blinds.
The flop was 8-6-2 of different suits, Mike checked and I bet $125,000 with my overpair (higher than the flop) and the remaining two on the table A card is drawn for a straight draw. He called and the turn came the 7. After thinking about it for a while, Mike bets $365,000 and I’m faced with a very difficult decision. At this point, Mike can let me beat me with an overpair that’s bigger than me (like J-J or even two pair), or he can play a tie or something like 9-9. So what should I do in this situation? If he decides to re-bet, do I sometimes call him before making another decision on the river? Do I fold my hands completely? The real question is, if I raise his bet, does he have a chance to fold?
All of this brings me to the concept of fold equity. For our purposes, it can be defined as the probability of winning the pot. Thus, fold equity is the chance to win the pot when your opponent folds.
A classic example of a fold equity is any semi-bluffing attempt. Let’s say you have a flush draw and a higher hand than the flop. It’s unlikely your opponents will pay you unless they flop top pair or better, but chances are it’s just a lucky combination of what you have and what your opponents and moves do. If you go all-in in this situation, you will gain fold equity because you know your opponent will only pay part of the bill. In terms of fold equity, the half-fold is very powerful.
You can also gain fold equity if you play aggressively pre-flop. Some inexperienced players don’t like to raise preflop with hands they wouldn’t reraise or reraise, but experienced players will raise (sometimes reraise). Discard equity can turn marginal hands into very profitable ones. Remember that there are situations where you should fold some of these hands when the chances of stealing the pot are slim.
Fold equity is also an extremely important concept during tournaments, especially when approaching the bubble. Many players tend to play too tight while waiting for the bubble to burst. Many people will try to make money by folding every hand. At this point, there may be enough fold equity to play any two cards, since the opponent will fold with such a large percentage of hands. This concept also applies when you’re making money (albeit to a lesser degree) and people are playing tight as they try to climb the bonus ladder.
That brings us back to my hand on Mike. Sexton at the final table of Event #1. What should I do, do I have to pay, fold or raise? Paying him will probably get me
Mike later hinted that he hit my hand, and I later learned that he actually made two pair on the turn with 7-6. I know I wouldn’t play this game without the chance to make him fold. But this bet has a lot of fold equity, so it’s a move I can’t fold.
Fold equity is a very important concept in open tables and tournament play as well, but especially in a tournament situation like the one I just described. If you consider the fold equity for a given hand, you can really start playing a strong poker game.
You can play games online in poker rooms and practice for free.
You can practice for free in the poker room.