Exploiting People’s Tendencies To Fold Too Often

Guide To Winning Poker (12)

  • Most players fold too much, especially when out of position
  • It isn’t difficult to counter this, through simply looking to take pots down
  • We don’t even need a hand to do this very effectively

Exploiting Folding Tendencies For Fun And Profit

One of the easiest ways to make money at the poker table is to take pots down by getting your opponents to fold. There are many situations in fact where we don’t even have to worry about what we have, as we can just bet and raise all we want, and our opponents will fold often enough to make these moves profitable. Now there may be better options, especially if we have a good hand, but the first step is to determine the profitability of the fold equity alone that presents itself.

So what we’re looking for here is a certain percentage of folds in a given situation which would indicate that we have enough of an edge here to take advantage when we want to. So let’s start by taking a simple example where we’re looking to bet the pot on the flop. So what percentage do we need here as far as our opponents’ folding is concerned? Well we’re getting even money on our bet, since we’re betting exactly the amount we will win if our opponent folds. So completely disregarding whatever else may happen, where we’re not counting any equity we have when our opponent doesn’t fold, we know that if he folds more than 50% of the time, we will win more than we are risking.

Look To Bet Smaller Here When You Can

What we do want to realize here though is that the smaller the bet that we can get our opponents to fold to, the better, as this increases our profit. So on the other hand if we can take down half the pots with a half pot sized bet, then we will make a lot more money than with a pot sized one. For example, if we bet pot and get folds 60% of the time, we make 1 60% of the time and lose 1 40% of the time, so that’s 2 times in 10 hands that we make a pot worth of profit, or .2 pots per hand. If we change this to half a pot bet, then we make 60 but only lose 20, so our edge is now .4 pots per hand.

However, what we want to be aware of here is the types of bets that our opponent is folding this much to, and by going smaller than the norm, his fold rate may be different, and in fact much less. In fact, by going too small, we may be encouraging him to play more correctly by folding less. So we want to at least be aware of the typical bet sizing that is going on, to get an idea of just what kind of bet sizes out opponents have folded this particular percentage to. Just from playing the particular game that you do, you will already have a good idea what this is. It could be half pot, or more likely two thirds or three quarters pot.

Don’t be Afraid To Experiment With Different Bet Sizes

You don’t necessarily need to be constrained by this, as you could experiment with a player and see how he reacts to a smaller than normal bet size, like half pots for instance, and some players may not even adjust at all, which is of course better for us. We do need to keep a close eye on things though lest we end up putting ourselves in an inferior position equity wise, meaning making less money from these takedowns with smaller sizing than we would with more typical bet sizes, due to a lesser fold rate. Another consideration is that we do need to keep our sizing with our fold equity plays consistent with what we do when we are going for value, or else we will be telegraphing our strategy way too much.

Calculating How Much Folding You Need To Be Profitable In Itself

So getting back to the numbers here, if we’re betting half the pot, then we can come up with a fairly simple equation to determine what percentage of folding we need to be over to be profitable here. I’ll spare you the math in showing how this is derived, but it’s 100 -(100/1+x), where x is the percentage of the pot we’re betting. So if x is 50, then it’s 100 – (100/1/5), or 100-66.7, or roughly 33%. If we’re using a three quarter pot bet, then it’s 100 – (100/1.75), or 100 – 57.143, which gives us roughly 43%. If we are using a two thirds pot bet, then it’s 100 – (100/1.67), or roughly 40%. Now of course, this isn’t math you really want to be doing at the table, so you should commit these numbers to memory: Full pot = 50, three quarters = 43, two thirds = 40, half pot = 33.

Now what should stand out here is the fact that many players are actually quite a bit tighter than this, and will end up folding a lot more than any of these numbers. So against many players there is a real opportunity to make some serious money just by firing out at them. Of course, the tighter they are, the more money we will make from their tightness. A lot of players play fit or fold in fact, and more often than not the cards on the board won’t be fitting their hand, so they will be folding more often than not, and it’s not unusual to see them folding 2 out of 3 times, or 67% or more, especially on the flop. If we have position on them, then they will usually tend to fold even more, which is one of the reasons position can be so valuable.

It Isn’t Just About Their Giving Up Without A Fight

We not only need to be looking to exploit situations where opponents fold to our bets too much, we also need to be looking at cases where they bet into us and fold to a raise too often, or they raise or re-raise and then fold to a further raise from us. Once again, it comes down to the percentage of the pot that we’re playing, and this also extends to over-bets as well, where we’re betting more than the pot but can consider doing this profitably if we get enough folds. This will require them to fold more than half the time of course, since a full pot bet requires half, but there still may be some opportunities there. The dynamics are a little different when the opponent is doing the betting though, and in particular we need to look at both their frequency of their aggressive action and their folding, but other than that the principles are the same.

In addition, we don’t just want to look at the betting round we’re on, as even if we can’t get them to fold enough on the present street, they may be disposed to fold too much on a future street. So in these cases, pursuing fold equity can be even more profitable, as we’re looking to build pots up more to take them down later, instead of just taking them down now for smaller profits. In fact, this is something that you always should be on the lookout to spot, and is one of the main reasons why you need to see their tendencies on each street laid out in front of you for easy reference. You can both float opponents, which means calling them now with a view to fold them out later for more money, and also come back for more aggression on later streets when indicated, when your aggression didn’t work on the betting round you’re currently in.

Punish Them For Their Folding Too Much At Every Opportunity

So there’s lots of potential opportunities here, and in fact there are a lot of players who do not understand what the correct folding frequencies are, and therefore are subject to being beaten out of their money and even abused. Now this isn’t to suggest though that we need to always be betting and raising every time when it’s profitable to do so, for a couple of good reasons. First off, even dull players will catch on to the fact that we’re doing this without a hand most of the time if we just fire out at them indiscriminately, so we have to look to mix it up here. A good rule of thumb is to look to back off with some good hands, which may also have more value in looking to trap opponents more and take to showdown. We’ll talk about balancing things a lot more in later sessions though.

In spite of how many opportunities exist for pure fold equity plays, there are going to be plenty of cases that we’ll run into where it isn’t high enough by itself to make it profitable, but it still needs to be accounted for, as even our value plays often have a certain amount of fold equity in them, meaning that we can win the hand both by showing it down and getting opponents to fold. As well, even our primary fold equity plays will generally have some showdown value, which needs to be added in to determine the true value of our betting and raising. If we have enough just by virtue of the fold equity present, we don’t need to do any further calculations as far as whether the bet or raise is profitable, but sometimes it’s still significant but not high enough by itself, and in that case we do need to figure in what happens when we don’t fold them out.

There may also be situations where even though pursuing fold equity may be profitable, taking another line may be even more profitable. So we’re going to have to need to compare betting out with playing the hand more passively if that turns out to be the better option. A lot of this will depend on the kind of hand we have, in addition to the tendencies of the opponents, and as a general rule, the better our hand, the more options that are available.

In the next session I want to start taking a look at some of the considerations that go into the value side of the equation, meaning making money from having the better hand.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series