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Fold Equity in NL Hold'em

Fold equity is a term that has been tossed around more and more over the past few years. As the games have gotten tougher and more advanced, a number of players have picked up on terminology that was once reserved only for top level pros. Fold equity is a concept that is definitely misunderstood by a sizable portion of the poker playing community.

The concept in and of itself is much easier to aptly understand once you are able to experience it first hand. In a nutshell, players create fold equity by playing a hand where they accept a win from showdown, a loss from showdown, or a win from folds. The times where you are able to make a bet, generally a raise or a re-raise, and force a fold will be indicative of the times where you are utilizing fold equity.

Strong players will often make plays that do not find profitability in either the folds or the calls that they get, but instead from a combination of the two. You may or may not be extremely confused by now. If none of this makes any sense, go ahead and read the example immediately below. If this does make sense to you, skip the next section.

An Example of a Hand With Fold Equity

Fold equity is best demonstrated in hands where a player is working with a draw. Draws will give you leverage because they provide an opportunity to suck out on your opponents, win without showdown, or even have a dominant hand at showdown. Pretend that you are dealt JsQs pre flop.

The pre flop action consisted of an open raise in early position, a call from middle position, and you calling from late position. The flop came 6s Ts Kh. Not only did you flop a flush draw, but you also have an open ended straight draw. The possibilities for you to make a major hand are seemingly endless.

The action on the flop starts off with a bet from the middle position player who had only called pre flop. You decide to flat call and see the turn, but the early position original raiser decides that they have different plans and puts in a moderately large check raise.

The middle position player now elects to fold their hand and the action is back on you. The early position player will have a monster or nothing at all the vast majority of the time. This will rarely be a situation where the EP player has a hand like KQ. As a result, your plan should be to either go all in or fold.

Going all-in will force folds or get calls from hands which you can outdraw. The EP player could easily have a hand like pocket aces or even an unsuited JQ, both of which would contemplate folding or calling your shove. Assuming they call with AA or JQ, you will either be flipping a coin or have the other player completely dominated.

On the other hand, you could potentially get a fold from these two hands in addition to any number of random bluffs. By going all in after the EP player’s check raise, you are maximizing your fold equity. You make a lot of money when the other player calls and you hit your hand, but you also make money when they fold after you go all in. In the end, a large portion of your equity was derived from the folds that you get. Fold equity is difficult to identify in the short term, but is critical in the long run.

Utilizing Fold Equity

Utilizing and capitalizing on fold equity is important for No Limit Hold'em players because it will give you chances to both cash in on your big hands and help in your efforts to balance ranges. There is a lot of beauty in the proper execution of hands where you have a lot of fold equity.

Solid players will look for every opportunity they can get to go all in when they can force a fold or draw out on their opponent, while a weaker player will play passively and choose to make calls instead. The difference in approaches to tricky situations is one of the common dividers between winning and losing players.

More NL Hold'em Strategy
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