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When to Fold

When to Fold in Poker

Learning when to fold can greatly improve your poker game, because it means you'll survive longer.

Recognising when to fold

To the novice poker player, it seems on the face of it as though folding is somehow conceding defeat – like you're giving up, like you're beaten. And to a certain extent, it is.

But there's an old saying – he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day. Applied to poker, what this means is, it's OK to fold. There's absolutely no shame in it. In fact, developing a keen sense of when to fold can be the most useful strategy there is.

You may think this flies in the face of all reason, but you'd be wrong. You see, successful poker playing is all about the long term game, and a lot of patience is required. It's really not about how many hands you win. You can win 90% of the hands you'll be dealt in a tournament, and still not make it to the final table.

When to fold: the basic idea

If you're going to survive long term, if you're going to outlast the field and make it into the paying final positions, you need to learn when to fold. This skill is crucial.

Also, it's not overly complicated. Here's a rule of thumb: when in doubt, fold. Fold before ever seeing the flop. The way cut throat professional poker works, you don't want to be heading into situations where your ego will force you to call – that way lies madness and certain death.

No, wait, let me rephrase all that. Generally speaking, it's never a bad idea to fold. It keeps you in the game longer, and it protects your stack. Sure, it also keeps you out of certain situations where it's possible to earn fat pots, but it extends your overall longevity.

There are two good, basic strategies when it comes to folding.

When to fold: Only play decent hands

A basic poker strategy for long term survival in tournament play is, fold your hole cards. Take a look at them. Hmm, Ace of Spades – that's good. But what's this that got dragged in along side it ... Two of hearts? Fold!

Next hand. First card ... Queen of Diamonds. Nice. Here comes the second card ... 8 of Diamonds. Rats. It's also a useless kicker. But, it's a diamond. Could be looking at a flush here, maybe limp in and see the flop? NO. FOLD.

Keep folding until you have something decent. Do not play unless you have the nuts. This is poker, unless you're playing antes, your stack is going to stay untouched except when you're one of the blinds. You can keep doing this forever.

When to fold: Bluff like crazy

The drawback of the above strategy is that astute opponents will begin to notice that you only come out swinging when you actually have the nuts. If they're at all smart, they'll start to fold the moment you call.

What this does is guarantee you the blinds. Therefore, every once in a while, make a raise while holding crap. More than likely, if people have noticed your folding pattern, they'll all fold out, giving you the pot.