Online poker strategy guide - Folding Part 1

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Online poker strategy guide - Folding Part 1

In the past I've written about betting and raising, but neglected the most common action players take at any poker table. It's not glamorous. It's not memorable, but it is our basic bread and butter play, and we do it more often than we do anything else. We fold.

That's what we do most of the time. Even loose players probably fold more than they call, and even the most unrepentant maniacs might fold more often than they raise. Face it; good, solid, selective-and-aggressive players fold most of the time. But it doesn't come across in the literature that way. While we're used to reading about those big confrontations upon which reputations are made and myths are created, there's generally a lot of down time between watershed events. And most of that downtime is the result of looking at your cards, deciding they are plug ugly and not worth a plug nickel's investment, so you throw them away.

It's high time we created a better appreciation for the unglamorous act of laying your hand down, avoiding the fray for the time being, and saving your money for a better situation.

Do You fold Often Enough?

The single biggest mistake made by most poker players is that they call when they should have folded. After all, most recreational players come to play not to lay down their hands and many get involved in pots with weak, unplayable starting hands. There are hold'em players who will see the flop with any ace in their hand, regardless of their position in the betting order, with no consideration for the number of opponents in the pot, or the amount of betting and raising that has taken place before it is their turn to act.

Folding In Split-Pot Games

The problem with calling far too often, when folding would be the better course of action, is not limited to hold'em either. It is an epidemic in Omaha/8. With four cards in their hand, many players just can't resist seeing the flop. The sad truth is that the more potential starting hand combinations you're dealt and with four cards dealt to you in Omaha you have six unique two-card combinations, compared to just one in hold'em the more selective you should be.

Those Omaha/8 cards need to be coordinated and work well together to give you a reasonably good shot at winning. A hand like AsAd2s3d is an incredibly well coordinated hand, with two potential nut flush draws, a low draw with counterfeit protection, and a big pair that might get better. Compare that hand to something like KsJc5d5h. Two big cards and a small pair is a treacherous hand. Make a set of fives and you've put at least one low card on board to give anyone with a low draw hope of chopping your pot in half. Your two high cards are not suited, and while you could make a straight with those them, straight possibilities look a lot better when the cards all work together.

I see 7-stud/8 players who enter pots with an eight as their door card, even when their opponents show lower cards. Let's face it, in a split pot game like 7-stud/8, if someone has an ace showing, you have no idea whether he's hoping to make a high hand, a low one, or is hoping to scoop. Suffice to say that if you've got an eight as your door card and an opponent is showing an ace, he probably has a better high and a better low hand than yours, assuming he has two other low cards snuggled in under that ace.

Most of the time you should be drawing to the best possible low hand, otherwise the cost of making the second best hand can become prohibitively expensive. While there are exceptional situations, where you don't have to have the best low draw to keep playing, they come up infrequently.

If you have a low draw along with a flush draw, you certainly don't need the best low draw to keep playing. Two-way hands and that includes two-way draws have a lot of playability because of the possibilities of scooping. After all, you might catch a low card of the suit you're chasing and make a flushy-low. Most of the time a flush is good enough to win the high side, and whenever that's the case, your quest for a low hand amounts to a freeroll. But you usually won't have that potent a draw, and if you're uncertain whether you'll wind up with the best hand if you catch the cards you need, think about folding instead of calling.

Calling, in fact, is often the worst of the three alternatives of folding, raising, or calling. After all, if you've got a winning low hand, but it's one that looks like it might be a high hand too perhaps your board is scary enough to suggest a straight or flush, but all you really have is a good low with one pair you ought to be raising. If you can drop a better high hand, you just might scoop the pot instead of splitting it. So don't lose sight of your objective in all split pot games: Scoop the pot whenever possible. This was a digression, to be sure, but far too many players call as their default action. Instead, they ought to think first of folding or raising, and call as a last resort rather than a first option.

Stay tuned. Next installment talks about folding in hold'em, folding on later betting rounds, and a discussion of what makes poker a game you can beat.

Written by Lou Krieger

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