Looking at Fold Equity in Poker

Years ago then we had a completely different game dynamic in most poker games and especially online poker. For example games were much more passive and more players were seeing the flop, turn, river and showdown. Also the average stack size was deeper, players were weaker and pot odds and implied odds were the big factors and especially implied odds. If an opponent raised from the UTG seat and you held pocket threes on the button then you had an easy call because of the “implied odds”.

This isn’t the case anymore but the important game dynamic now is fold equity. However just like implied odds, fold equity isn’t an exact figure. You can put a figure on your hand equity if you have a good estimation of your opponents range. You also know your pot odds because once again these are easily discernible metrics. Implied odds have always been more difficult to calculate because a lot depends on our opponents’ ability to pay us off. It took experience to be able to work out if we had implied odds or not and it is the same with fold equity.

It is sufficient though to understand that fold equity has taken over from implied odds and pot odds in no limit Texas hold’em. Now we have what I call “implied fold equity”. This isn’t a term that you will often hear used in poker an awful lot but it discusses the merits or chances of your opponent folding to your action at a future point in time. Just like implied odds is to do with making money at some future point in time by making your hand, implied fold equity is to do with making money from your opponent folding in the future.

Let us look at two contrasting situations where we have a far greater chance of making our opponent fold. We have the 5c-5d on the button in both instances and in the first hand it is raised by an UTG player to 4bb who has a 100bb stack in a NL100 full ring game. In the second instance we have the exact same hand only this time it is open raised by the cut-off to 4bb. In the first instance then we will have to make a set a lot more frequently to win because there is a smaller chance that our opponent will fold.

The strength of their range dictates this and so despite howls of derision to the contrary, calling with pocket fives is not a great play and folding is a decent line. If we have great implied odds then folding is poor but not in this instance where we need to have fold equity to make a profit! Our level of “implied fold equity” along with our “implied odds” have both fallen in tandem and so if we have little implied odds and little fold equity then the better line is to simply fold.

Now take that same hand on the button and suddenly our opponents range is much wider meaning that we can get them to fold more marginal hands as many more weak hands are in their range. So we can call or even 3/bet in this instance because the level of fold equity that our opponent is giving us is much higher. There is a far greater chance that if we call the raise that we can make our opponent fold at some future point in time meaning that we have far greater “implied fold equity”.


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