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Knowing When to Fold

Understanding Various Situations When You Should Fold Your Hands

Players have several decisions to make when playing poker such as what cards to play, whether to bet or not if at all, and most importantly, deciding when, where, and if a hand should be folded. "Knowing when to hold'em and when to fold them" is a crucial part of poker and a concept that many players struggle with. All players go through a phase where it is near possible to fold pocket aces, or any other made hand, even when it is obvious that an opponent has a better hand.

So when is it the right time to fold a hand? Well, nothing is set in stone but the first situation that a player needs to evaluate is their starting hands.  

Evaluating Your Starting Hands

When a player decides what cards they choose to initially enter a pot with, little do they know that they are setting themselves up for later streets. The decisions that they have to make can be easy or it can be difficult and will all depend on their starting hands.  Many factors need to be considered when deciding what hands to play and what hands to fold. As a good rule of thumb, always try to have starting hands that are at least paired, suited, connected, or a combination of suited and connected. This will ensure easier decisions later on the flop, turn, and the river.

So, how will a player know what cards to fold? A player will know when to fold when they get hands that need miracle flops to be ahead such as J-5, 2-3, 4-6, and so forth. All other hands that are playable will of course be dependent on position, pot odds, and opponents.

Understanding the Flop Texture

Regardless of the hand a player holds pre-flop, whether it is 2-7 off suit or pocket aces, it can be way ahead on the flop or way behind. So the first step to knowing if a player should fold his or her hand or not, is to look at the flop texture.
Knowing how to read the board and analyze what possible hands can be out there is the first thing that should be done after the flop. Pocket Aces can be great on a board like Kc-9d-5h, but can be a bit scary on a board like Kc-Qc-Jc. Even though a pair of Aces beat a pair of anything on the flop, a player who has A-10 or 9-10 has you beat not to mention any two clubs. A situation like this should be more obvious, but if not, this would be an ideal time to consider letting the "rockets" go.

A situation where it may not be so obvious is when a player has middle pair top kicker. For example, when a player has A-10 on a board such as K-10-7. An opponent can beat your pair of 10's with a pair of Kings. What does a player do in this situation?

This of course is completely situational however, something to consider is your opponents range. If a player is in early position then a King would definitely be in their range of starting hands and more likely, thus giving an opponent with A-10 an easier decision. However, if the roles were reversed and the player with A-10 is in early position then it is possible that A-10 is ahead as a player in late position typically has a wider range of hands. Even if an opponent is representing a King, it could still be worthwhile to see the turn.

Something else to keep in mind as you are reading this is the type of game that is being played. Players who play limit or fixed limit poker are justified in playing a potential "2nd" best hand as it will only cost a few more bets to find out. It is actually considered an incorrect play to go to the river and fold; unless a player was on a draw and missed or is absolutely sure they are beat.

The last thing to point out is to simply determine whether or not the price is right to continue on in the hand. If someone is betting big and it is getting raised and re-raised, are you really going to want to risk a big bet on hand that you are unsure of? Of course not.  

When to Fold Your Hand

It really is a difficult to give concrete advice on an action that is so situational. Although at times folding will be obvious when there are possible made hands on the board, many times a player will be in a situation where they can be ahead but the board texture is telling them they may not be.

In these situations it is important to analyze the flop, your opponents, and how much it may cost to go further in the hand. And if a player is not willing to call a big bet with their hand, then that is a sure fire sign that it may be time to fold.