developing a fold strategy
The weakest part of most new, intermediate, or just plain not all that successful Texas Holdem players' games is their lack of a fold strategy. If you cannot fold in poker, you cannot become a big winner. Many unsuccessful poker players find that counterintuitive, but in fact it's common sense.
YOU GOT TO KNOW WHEN TO FOLD 'EM
All champion poker players fold the great majority of the time--including pre-flop a lot of the time. The most aggressive players like Phil Ivey, the most brilliant calculators like Chris Ferguson, the most cunning players like Phil Helmuth--they all fold a minimum of 65% of the time. And most of their folding is done either pre-flop or just after the flop and the betting round on the flop. The song told the truth: you got to know when to fold 'em (as well as when to hold 'em). Great players only play between 25% and 35% of their hands beyond the flop. That's it. The rest of the time they fold. These are the winners--for part of winning at Texas hold'em is knowing how to do your best to minimize your losses and maximize your gains. One small loss is nothing compared to a string of large ones--and if you are reluctant to fold that's exactly what you are setting yourself up for.
WHY DO YOU NEED A FOLD STRATEGY?
You need a fold strategy because (besides the fact that to be a winner you imitate winners and winners have one) the song told the truth about another thing: every hand's a winner, and every hand's a loser. There are players who are so good that they can win with the worst pocket possible--the 7-2 deal--and there are players who are so poor that if they get pocket Kings to start the game they never win, or if they do win their winnings are a mere pittance.
Lady Luck is fickle. The laws of chance rule with an iron fist. You just aren't going to be dealt the best of hands all that much of the time. Most of the time you will win poker pots by using sound mathematics, maintaining your poker image, and using all that you have gathered about the other players' styles and tendencies against them. Every hand's a winner, and every hand's a loser. It all depends how you play it and who you go up against.
You use fold strategy for cutting your losses. It's that simple. The secret of being a success at poker is losing small and winning big. You're going to lose more than you win, but if you lose small and win big those big wins more than make up for those small losses. You cannot possibly lose small if you are reluctant to fold. And you cannot be a success at poker if you don't at least partially approach it like a business, and think "coldly" about your finances with every hand.
This doesn't mean give up easily all the time if you have a less than one of the ten best starting poker hands. It means always have the fold option open to you in your mind unless you take your hand to the River.
WHEN TO FOLD 'EM
- Part of knowing when to fold'em has to do with your texas holdem image. Are you over the top with aggression or do you only care about being tight? Whatever it is, you have to be consistent with it--so that you don't confuse yourself, and so that you can potentially use other players' image of you against them in bluff situations. With practice you'll learn to pick a style that you are most suited for. Some styles do fold less frequently than others.
- Who are you up against? If you're in some free online poker room and there are lots of nibbling fishies, you should be closer to the 35% range of playing hands, because the fish will beat themselves and you will profit from it. If you are up against some really good players, you'll only be playing your hands 25% of the time and maybe even less depending on the cards you're getting that day.
- Be most ready to fold pre-flop and after the first betting round of the flop. Read the other players carefully to help you make your decision.
- If you're still in after the flop betting and you get to the Turn, you will likely be in it to win it. You might still fold even on the Turn, but if you get to the River drop the fold option and consider yourself committed.
- Always consider very carefully how much you'll be losing if you fold "now" as against how much you could possibly win and how much of your bankroll you have. Use all of the mental strategies such as calculating poker pot odds to help you determine whether or not to fold or to take a chance on winning.
- There are poker software packages that can help you learn the best times to fold and the best times to stay in. If you're playing online and you're relatively new, make use of the best poker software.
Again, no fold strategy, no long-term success in Texas hold'em.
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