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Poker Strategy: Fold Equity

A lot of players hear the term "fold equity" floating around but never spend the time to learn what it means and how it can make their game that much more profitable for them. Fold equity, simply put, is the equity that you gain in a hand when you believe that your opponent is going to fold to the bet that you make. This is a lot easier to use in your poker game than you might think.

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Whenever you make a bet at the poker table, there is a chance that your opponent is going to decide to fold their hand to you. This chance can be slim, such as when they're holding a really powerful pair and they have a large stack, or it can be large, like when they're holding a pair of weak connectors and calling because the action has been weak so far. Understanding the chance that they might fold gives you the best chance to manipulate them and force them out of a hand.

The relative chance that your opponent is going to fold to your bet increases your overall hand equity. By doing that, you take them out of the equation and you’re no longer worried about just showing down to the best hand. There is a chance that your opponent is going to fold on every bet and that little bit of equity is added to your hand’s relative worth.

Your fold equity will vary from hand to hand that you play and figuring it out is a key skill to help you make better decisions at the table. There are essentially three different levels of fold equity. If you believe that your opponent is very likely to fold – they've limped in using the above scenario, for example – then you have a great deal of fold equity. If your opponent calls or raises to you on every bet, then you have no fold equity at all. If you feel like your opponent might fold if you can nail them on the turn or the river and bet hard, then you're in the great middle ground, where you need to look for every advantage you can.

In order to get fold equity out of other players, you have to make a play. That means you can't just call – you must bet or raise. It’s only through betting or raising that you give your opponent the impetus to fold. While there is no hard number or way to determine fold equity except in post-game analysis, playing in live events will give you face-to-face experience and a better look at their thought processes.

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As you can see, fold equity is not an exact science, but understanding how you affect other players with each play is a key part of becoming a better online poker player. Work to get your head around fold equity and you’ll be ahead a lot of your competition, particularly in lower buy-in tournaments.

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