What is the Fold Equity Strategy?
Table of content:
- What is the fold equity strategy?
- Fold Equity Calculation
- Demonstration of fold equity strategy – A situational example
- Key Factors to consider for an effective fold equity strategy
- Application of fold equity – tournament situation
Every poker player, be it a professional or a recreational one, experiences a time when their stack and position in a game of poker dwindles to a point of distress. Being short stacked and on the brink of being knocked out often compels players to make wrong decisions at crucial junctures of a game. This is where the poker strategy of fold equity comes into the picture. Fold equity in poker is simply a concept using which players can determine the likelihood of their opponent folding their bet. This strategy often comes handy during difficult times when players are more than likely to make rash decisions, and the best part about this strategy is that it is quite simple. Keep reading this guide to know everything right from the basic concept, application and key factors related to fold equity.
When it comes to poker, “Equity” is a term that is often used to describe a person’s share in the current pot. For instance – if your equity in the pot is 60% then the chance of you winning the hand is basically 60%. The equity is generally displayed in the form of percentages though it can be expressed as the expected value as well.
Taking this concept further, is the strategy of fold equity. This concept essentially lets players calculate what they stand to win if they succeed in forcing their opponents to fold their cards by either raising or betting. Now, the mathematical equation for calculating fold equity is quite straightforward, and it is as mentioned below:
Likelihood of opponent folding x gain in equity if opponent folds
Here, to calculate the likelihood of an opponent folding his cards, you likely need a lot of observational skills. To get a clear picture, you may use the two below-mentioned ways to gather data.
Monitor the folds
Pay close attention to your opponent so that you can make a note of how your opponent played his last 10 hands, and try to identify a pattern if there is any. For instance – if your opponent folded 8 times in the last 10 hands then this suggests that he likely folds 80% of the time. By monitoring the folds of your opponent, you will be able to determine a clear percentage to work with.
Pay close attention t other details
You must pay close attention to other details as well. For instance – if your opponent has a tendency of scaring easily with large raises, then he would likely not fold easily.
Now, let us take a look at a step-by-step procedure for calculating fold equity.
Step 1 – Calculation of likelihood of opponent folding
To put it simply, there is no standard procedure or formula for calculating this value. Players just have to gather all the information they potentially can about how often their opponent folds. For instance – after careful evaluation a player comes to a conclusion that their opponent is likely to fold 70% of the time.
Step 2- Gain in equity if opponent folds
Thereafter, let us assume a player holds a pair of eights, while his opponent holds a queen and a nine. In this situation, using the strategy of fold equity, the player has just over 55% chance of winning $100 pot. This in other words means the player’s pot equity is close to $55 for the current hand. On the contrary, the opponent has a 45% chance of winning this hand, which means the opponent’s pot equity for this hand is approx. $45.
Step 3 – Calculation of pot equity
Let us substitute the above values in the equation to calculate the exact amount of the fold equity. So, combine the opponent’s 70% chance of folding with their 45% pot equity and the fold equity comes down to 31.5%. Thereafter, add this 31.5% to the player’s pot equity i.e., 55% and there you have your fold equity which in this case comes down to 86.5%. This in other words means that a player playing this round has an 86.5% chance of winning.
As a bonus tip, always remember fold equity is most effective when it is calculated using exact figures and accurate reads. To explore the concept of fold equity in greater detail, in the upcoming section, we have detailed another working example of fold equity.
Let’s imagine a situation, you are playing a round of poker and you currently hold a 6 of clubs and 6 of hearts. Alternatively, your opponent, let’s say Mike holds Jack of spades and a 10 of diamonds. Looking at the cards, as you might have guessed both you and your opponent hold a 50:50 chance of winning this round. In fact, since you already hold a pair your pot equity actually comes down to 51%. So, in a $100 pot, while your pot equity is $51, Mike’s pot equity is $49.
However, at this point it is important for you to consider that till now we have only calculated the pot equity with absolutely no reference to the fold equity. So, for the sake of this example, let’s assume there is roughly a 50% chance that Mike will fold to a raise or an all-in bet. So, the fold equity in this example comes down to:
Likelihood of opponent folding = 50% x 49% = 24.5%
Gain in equity if opponent folds = 51%
Fold equity = likelihood of opponent folding + gain in equity if opponent folds = 75.5%
Thus, your fold equity in a $100 pot is basically 75.5% or $75.5. Putting it simply, the greater the chance that your opponent will fold to a bet, the greater is the fold equity in a game of poker.
So, you have learnt the basic concept of fold equity and its application in different situations. What Next? Well, determining the fold equity in a hand is generally far more difficult than what meets the eye. This is because there are some key factors that generally have a significant impact on a person’s fold equity. Not only is it important to understand these factors but if you are aiming to become a professional poker player then you must learn to evaluate these factors while sitting at an online virtual poker table.
Firstly, while playing a game of poker, try to understand what your present table image is. This is because it has been historically proven that table image generally has a significant impact on a person’s fold equity. For instance – do you generally play tight in the beginning and thereafter bring your A game on the table only towards the end? Do you generally hold strong cards? Do you bluff during a game?
Well, if you generally play tight due to a poor show of cards and only get off the line when you have a strong show of cards, then there is a strong probability and that you likely hold high fold equity. Conversely, if you generally play aggressively even with poor cards then there is a high chance that your fold equity will be quite low.
This is because if during a certain game you happen to play tight initially and then start betting aggressively, your opponents will give you credit for holding a strong hand. You can also use your table image to bluff your opponents by making them believe that you have a strong hand when you actually don’t.
The perceived hand range is also a very important factor that generally has a significant impact on a player’s fold equity. Now, hand range in simple terms is basically described as the range of cards that you generally display during a showdown. For instance, if you generally show strong cards during showdown then it is quite likely that your opponents will fold when you start betting or raising aggressively. Conversely, if you often happen to have a poor show of cards during showdown then be rest assured of a low fold equity during a game. Generally speaking, while having the ability to read your opponents during a game of poker is extremely important, the importance of building a strong table and hand range image is also undeniable.
Opponent's table image
What table image does your opponent generally portray at the table?
Do they generally bluff? Or, do they generally play tight and selective? Contrary to common belief, fold equity of a player generally increases manifold when they are playing against a strong player. Why? How? Because, even though it is true that strong players mostly bring their A game to the table, it is also an undeniable fact that these players usually fold far more easily when they perceive they are close to being knocked out. Your table image and general hand range, as you might have guessed, has an important role to play here as well.
Let’s put it this way, your fold equity in a particular game of poker is directly proportional to your stack size. Let’s assume you currently have a stack for the next 10 big blinds while your opponent has a stack for the next 50 big blinds. Since your opponent actually poses a greater threat here, it is quite likely your fold equity will be significantly lower.
In another situation, you hold a stack for the next 60 big blinds and your opponent has a stack size for the next 50 big blinds. Here, your fold equity will be much higher because if you decide to move all-in than your opponent’s entire tournament life can actually be in danger. Now, it's up to your opponent to decide if their cards are worth the risk or not.
Truly speaking, almost everything in a game of poker depends heavily on the position. In this regard, players raising a bet from an early position usually have far more fold equity as compared to players who raise their bets from later positions. This is because when you raise a bet from an early position with a lot of opponents still to act, you basically send a clear message that you hold a strong set of cards. On the other hand, when you raise a bet from a later position it is generally perceived that you have a weak hand.
Number of Opoonent's
The ideal scenario in a game of poker is when you are playing against a single opponent. This is because as a player if you make a raise with multiple players in the pot, then chances are quite high that someone will call. Therefore, fewer the opponents more likely they will fold to your bet, and higher will be the fold equity. Let’s understand this situation with an example –
You are playing against a single opponent in the hand whose likelihood of folding is 50%. So, your fold equity for the current game is 50%. In a different scenario, you are playing against 3 other players each having a 50% chance of folding. In this situation, your fold equity comes down to 25% or even less.
The right time to calculate fold equity
Fold equity, to say the least, is actually regarded as an advanced strategy in the world of poker. Why? As discussed before, to calculate the exact percentage of the fold equity, you need to have an accurate reading of your opponent. This is quite difficult because you can never be 100% sure of what your opponent is truly holding. Conversely, this strategy can only be applied in situations where it is possible to read the opponent.
On the same lines, the ideal time to calculate fold equity is against players who are short stacked but still display a clear pattern of play. By using the fold equity strategy against these players, you will likely be able to base your decisions on a more exact percentage of fold equity.
Vital to this, as a thumb rule, always refrain from using the fold equity strategy against reckless or short chip stacked players who generally do not follow patterns and often take far more risks to stay in the game than an experienced player does. Since these players do not follow a common ground, it becomes close to impossible to gauge the likelihood of their folding the cards.
Not many people realise, but fold equity is a concept that enjoys a significant importance in tournament poker. This is because the blinds generally escalate every 5-10 minutes in poker tournaments. This in turn puts significant pressure on the players to make the correct decisions consistently and that too quickly. In fact, one bad call during a tournament can make the player lose a large chunk or money.
However, tournaments also act as the ripe ground for players to put their fold equity strategy in practise. This is because during poker tournaments most of the players generally tighten up to avoid being knocked out of the play or the tournament itself. The tight players are also more likely to fold in an event should you happen to move all-in. This in turn significantly increases a player’s fold equity and in turn their chances of winning.
Understanding how much fold equity you hold in a game of poker can actually improve your odds of winning significantly. However, make sure that you do not get too aggressive with the fold equity strategy that you blindly start betting, hoping for your opponent to fold. While aggression and compelling other players to fold are definitely two of the most prominent tools in a poker’s players arsenal. Blind aggression often does a player more harm than good.
Therefore, while employing the strategy of fold equity be rational and think with an open mind. First understand and master the strategy of fold equity and its application. Thereafter, make a note of the table image of your opponent and calculate the percentage of times they are likely to fold in a game. Do not ever call or raise just because you think your opponent is “weak” or “strong”. Always remember to use the fold equity to improvise or change your game as you like.
To practise the concept of fold equity in a live game scenario, signup on the GetMega Poker app today and participate in multiple poker games and tournaments of your choice.