Know When To Fold `Em: The Science of Poker



Understanding how and when to fold is fundamental in poker and will help you avoid angering other players. When learning how to play Texas Hold ’em, you’ll need to make sure you understand what to do should the odds not be in your favor. 

You stop playing poker when you fold your hand. When it’s your turn you can do what you want, you can fold at any time. When you fold in poker, you’re out of the game for that hand. You can no longer claim the pot, and you will not be required to increase the bid for that hand when you withdraw. 

Folding is also known as laying down, mucking, slinging in, and trimming. As Kenny Rogers says: 

You’ve gotta know when to hold ’em

Know when to fold ’em

Know when to walk away

Know when to run

Never count your dollars

When you’re sitting at the table

There’ll be time enough for counting

When the dealing is done

The Right Way to Fold

Knowing the right time and the right way to fold are essential when learning how to play Texas Hold ’em. It is best to wait until your turn arrives before folding at a poker table. Even if you’ve been dealt bad cards and you’d like to throw them in right away, you need to be patient and wait for the players ahead of you to fold, call, or raise before you can do so yourself. 

It’s poor poker etiquette to fold out of turn. You will earn the ire of your opponents, as your actions could reveal to those still playing what the odds of winning may be. 

Folding early also means those still playing will have one less person to call and potentially raise the pot. Your actions can impact their decision to call, raise the stakes, or fold.

If you’re playing online poker, you can program your retirement as soon as you see your cards, but at a live table, you have to wait until it’s your turn.

Be courteous to the dealer by placing your cards face down and sliding them forward enough to allow him to pick them up with ease. Before you discard your cards face down, you should say “fold” or “I fold” to indicate your intentions. There is no way to change your mind and re-enter the hand once you have said you will fold.

The other players should not see your cards when you fold. Be careful when tossing, and don’t expose yourself by getting too fancy with your toss – you are likely to receive a second warning from the dealer if you aren’t careful.

If you have the option to check, such as after the flop, turn, or river, it is also uncommon to fold rather than check. On most occasions, if there is a raise, you would check, then fold.

Your Odds

What’s going on behind you or in your hand?

Bluffing instead of folding when you know your cards are bad is an option, but that’s a topic for a different article. Experienced players will know when you are bluffing and will be eager to call your bluff, making folding the better play when dealing with lower stakes.

Folding Because of Bad Odds

A draw is only worth calling when the pot odds and/or implied odds are in your favor – otherwise, don’t bother. You should not overestimate your number of outs when deciding whether to draw a card or not.

Folding when you don’t have the right odds to call isn’t limited to when you’re drawing hands. It’s hard to say if you’re always ahead or always behind in a situation because you can’t put your opponent on a single hand either. 

There are times when you will be ahead of your opponent’s most likely holdings, and behind the other possible holdings. You can estimate the likelihood that you are ahead, and by comparing this chance with your pot odds, you can decide whether to call or fold.

A lot of people who play at lower stakes aren’t interested in trying to bluff the river. A fold would be evident in that case as well.

Folding Because of the Expected Action

Preflop starting hand selection is also affected by this. Drawing hands (with which you’d like to see a cheap flop) from an early position should be avoided because there are still plenty of players to act behind you who can raise and make it more expensive than you’d like.

After the flop, this principle holds true. There are times when you’ll find yourself facing a bet with one or more opponents left to act behind you and a relatively weak hand. It’s essential to remember that even if you think you’re ahead of the player who bets out, you could still be behind one of the other players. You should be able to decide whether to fold your marginal hand based on this.

On top of that, you have to consider the possibility that a player will continue to bet on future streets. After checking the flop and calling it on the turn, is it worth it to call another bet? If not, it may have been better to fold on the flop.

When deciding whether to fold or not, your position is crucial. It’s easier to fold in marginal situations if you’re not in a position to influence how the hand plays out. Follow this guide and you’ll have a better idea of what to do and what not to do next time you find yourself around a poker table.


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