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When Should You Fold In Poker? (Guide For Beginner Bookies)

Being successful in poker is about much more than just being dealt a good hand.

There is a lot of skill involved in being a successful poker player and one of the most important skills you need to learn is knowing when to fold. Folding at the right time is key to building a winning poker strategy.

Folding is essential in poker. There will always be rounds where you need to fold and this is true of even the top players in the game.

Watch any high-level poker tournament and you will see the best players in the world fold as part of their strategy.

But when should you fold in poker? The basic rule is that you should fold your hand if calling or raising looks like it will lose more money than folding your hand will. We will look at this in more detail and share some examples. 

Folding In Poker

If you fold your hand in poker, it means that you discard your cards and play no further part in that round.

Any money you have contributed to the current pot is lost but you don’t have to put any more money in, either.

It’s wise to fold if calling or raising the bet will cost you more money than folding the hand is likely to.

The amount of money needed to continue betting can get higher as the round progresses and if you feel that your opponents have hands stronger than yours, there is no point in throwing more money into the pot when you can’t win.

You need to consider the expected value (EV.) What are your realistic odds of winning more money than you are betting?

These odds depend on your cards, your opponent’s cards, and how your opponents are going to play. Being able to read the table and your opponents is a key skill in poker.

Let’s look at a few common scenarios where people are likely to fold.

Folding Before The Flop

In some types of poker such as Texas Hold ‘Em, the percentage of hands folded before the flop can be as high as 75 percent!

You should always consider folding your cards before the community cards are turned over as a bad hand will see you fighting a losing battle.

If you’re seated in the early or middle positions, you should consider what cards you’re willing to play and stick with this decision. If you’re dealt A-A then you should play the hand.

Or, if you’re dealt a couple of cards that are of different suits and aren’t close enough in sequence to make a flush, however, you may want to fold as it’s unlikely you will make anything from that hand.

There are a few gray areas where cards could become a decent hand but also have the chance of not being a good hand.

It’s these gray areas that separate great players from decent ones and you will need to decide how aggressive you want to be with these cards.

We suggest checking out a hand range chart and setting your own limits.

Your Preflop Hand Isn’t Strong After The Flop

poker table - When Should You Fold In Poker

When the community cards are turned over, you will be able to get a better assessment of the strength of your hand.

Although there will be extra cards added in the Turn and River, you should be able to assess whether you have a strong hand or not and whether it is worth hanging in there. 

There is always an element of luck involved in poker as all of the strongest hands require getting the right cards in the Turn and River. But if your hand isn’t going to be that strong even with the best-case scenario, you should consider folding.

An Opponent Starts Betting Big

Knowing your opponents is key to winning in poker. Take note of how your opponents are playing the game and watch for any sudden changes.

For example, some players will always play poker in a tighter and more cautious way than others. They may fold more frequently or bet with smaller amounts when it’s their turn to set the pace. If a player like this suddenly starts to bet larger amounts, you can be sure that they have a good hand.

This can also happen with players that never bluff. Some poker players will always try to convince you that their hand is better than it really is in order to convince you to fold.

Other players, however, are really reluctant to bluff or are really bad at it. If a usually honest player starts betting big, they may have a great hand. 

Players that are willing to bluff will bet big on even bad hands though, so make sure you are paying close attention to your opponent’s behavior and hands.

The Money Bubble

If you’re playing tournament poker, there will hopefully come a time when you’re close to making the ranking positions and winning some serious cash. This is known as “the bubble” and is the point separating the players who will make money from those who won’t.

For example, if a tournament will give cash prizes to the top 10 players, the point where there are only 11 remaining is the bubble. The next player out will be the last player to not win any money.

When players are on the bubble, they typically fold hands more often and play a tighter game. Betting big on a losing hand can be the factor that sends them out of the tournament so they prefer to be cautious.

If you’re playing in a tournament, you should consider folding to be a strategic move to save your pot and your position.

Play The Odds

You need to try and figure out what hand your opponent is likely to have. This is easier later in the game when you’ve seen what your opponent is likely to discard and likely to keep.

Once the flop has been revealed, you will know where five of the 52 cards in the deck are but the other 47 will be unknown.

Consider the outs of your hand and how many of those unknown 47 cards are likely to help you build the hand you need.

By dividing your outs by the number of unknown cards, you can find your chances of winning. Play if it’s high, fold if it’s not!

Consider Your Circumstances

Deciding when to fold is going to change from player to player because every player is in a different situation. Remember that you should never bet more than you can afford to lose!

A player that is financially set or is betting with money they don’t care about losing may push hands further than a player that needs the money.

Players that need the money may be more cautious and more willing to fold, especially before the flop.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we listed a few circumstances to help you know when to fold in poker. Folding is a skill and you should fold whenever it is necessary!

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