Friday, March 28, 2008

The Art of Folding

You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into. ~Author Unknown

An often overlooked and undervalued aspect of your game is folding. To maximize your success at full ring NLHE, you should fold a lot more often than you choose not to fold. This being the case, if you can learn to fold better than your opponents, you gain an edge. Most people see folding as completely passive. I see folding as a tactical weapon. Imagine the martial artist, you thrust at him, he nimbly steps aside, avoiding the attack. You attempt to ambush me with a check raise but I deftly parry with a fold and my stack is unharmed. Minimal effort yields maximum protection. My opponents are becoming frustrated because, like a boxer, I circle my prey, wearing them down gradually before moving in for the coup de grace. Be like a hunter patiently waiting for one’s prey.
Or like a fisherman, sitting quietly waiting for the big fish to bite.
Observe your prey. What do they do? How do they do it? Why do they do it?
What hands are they showing? Are they playing weak hands out of position?
Do they crave action on almost every hand? What are they saying?
Absorb the maximum amount of information possible. Many times, they will reveal their strategy if you are paying attention.

Focus on being in the moment and be aware of your breathing. Don’t be distracted by random thoughts whirring about. Breathe in. Watch what your opponents are doing. Breathe out. Continue observing. The urge to act, the desire to win now, rather than later, seems compelling but your will is stronger. Resist the urge to act now unless now is the right time to act. This does not mean waiting for Aces or Kings, mediocre cards may be adequate depending on your position, the actions of your opponents, and the tendencies and weaknesses you have observed them demonstrate. Although it may seem counter intuitive to go all the way over to the casino and see how many hands you can stay out of, try to embrace the concept of selective engagement. Engage your opponent when the situation favors you and by definition, it will be unfavorable to them.

Why should one fold - to deny an opponent the opportunity to win part of my stack when I am not in a position of strength. If you fold a lot, players will become “aware” when you are in a pot. This creates prime opportunities for continuation bets and semi-bluffs. It also makes small pocket pairs a lot more playable. Craft your table image as selective but deadly and watch the respect your 3-bets will acquire.

How should one fold - stoically fold your cards face down into the muck regardless whether or not someone wants to see them. Develop good habits.
Try to fold in the same manner each time so it becomes automatic.
Don’t discuss what you folded – e.g. “aw, man, I would have flopped the nuts”.
If players are talking like this, think about what the guy folded and think about what made him fold. You will gain insight into the other player’s decision making process.
If anyone asks what you folded, either ignore them or say you forgot.

When should one fold - when one is out of position and/or one does not hold a premium starting hand. When one is faced with a raise and one does not have a strong enough hand to call or re-raise. When one started with a good hand but have been outflopped/outdrawn and are now obviously beaten. The best time to fold is pre-flop or on the flop, before one has invested much in the hand.

What should one fold – most starting hands that are not pocket pairs, big or suited Aces, or big suited connectors. Don’t be discouraged, another hand will be dealt soon. There is no need to play “this” hand. Relax. Breathe. Observe your opponents.

Poker is a game of small edges. Accrue several small edges together and you have a bigger edge. The edges one accrues are cumulative and will add up over time.
Be patient. And, until next time, good luck at the tables.

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