Too much fold equity?

by ~ June 2nd, 2009. Filed under: Poker theory.

One of the things after learning to continuation bet is learning not to continuation bet. I don’t mean just the times you miss the flop and the flop hits your opponent’s range or you have more than one opponent, but the times that it’s better not to bet because you’re likely ahead and will lose any possibility of future money by folding out your opponent. In other words, betting is not the most +EV choice. You likely have fold equity, but if you use it you may kill any chance of getting more chips later.

Say your opponent is weak/tight and open limps from early position. You have TT and you raise, for value and to isolate. The blinds fold, and he calls. Flop is K92 rainbow. He checks. If you bet, you’ll find out that he didn’t have a King and he’ll fold. But that was pretty likely to begin with. You may also fold out any kind of 9 or 88/77/66 kind of hand.

If instead, you check behind he will be uncertain what you hold. There are cards that may help him and you let him get ahead of you. An Ace may come, and if he bets, you don’t know if he held the Ace or if he’s betting the scare card because you checked the flop. A Queen might come, and he might be holding QJ and now he’s ahead of you. But the times that his hand 1) was not ahead of you on the flop, and 2) does not improve enough to move ahead of you on the turn, you stand a chance to get win more when he starts to believe his paired 9 is good or that you have nothing and his Ace high or pair of 5s is good.

Another example. You hold AQ, raise, get called by the big blind. Flop is A93 rainbow. He checks. You have top pair, good kicker. If you bet, he’ll probably fold any pocket pair like 88/77/66/55 that he might have called preflop with. He’ll also fold 87 or something like T8. The hands that will call will be any Ace hand and hands like JJ/TT that are still hopeful. But if you check behind, here there’s even less chance that he will catch up or get ahead of your hand. It’s only TP good kicker, but unless he has a 9 and hits his second pair or trip 9s or a set with a pocket pair, you’re still going to be ahead on the turn. Even if he doesn’t improve, the fact that you checked behind may lead him to think that you don’t have a strong hand and he can bluff.

Plug this into PokerRazor. Give the opponent a range of 20% or 22+, A9+, A8s-A4s, KT+, QT+, JT, J9s, T9s (bracketed numbers for tighter range of JJ-22, AT+, A9s, KQ, KJs, QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 87s, 76s) and he has

  1. a set 3.5%, (4.9)
  2. 2 pair 3.0%, (0.8)
  3. an Ace 20%, (24.6)
  4. underpair 10.5% (9.8)
  5. second pair 3.0% (4.9)
  6. third pair 15% (24.6)
  7. low pair 3.0% (4.9)
  8. King high 20% (13.1)
  9. nothing 20% (12.3)
  10. backdoor flush draw 14.0% (18.9)

and your hand is best 89.5% (89.0). If you bet, you may sometimes get more money from an Ace or underpair, = 30.5%, are giving money to the sets and 2 pair that are ahead = 6.5%, and you lose the rest. By not betting the flop, we’re risking getting less money from the 30.5% that may call our flop bet and and another later bet as well, but possibly getting money from the other hands that we are ahead of.

Assume a J comes on the turn. Then:

  1. a set 5.4%,
  2. 2 pair 8.2%,
  3. an Ace 17.4%,
  4. underpair 4.9%
  5. second pair 17.9%
  6. third pair 4.9%
  7. low pair 19.6%
  8. King high 15.2%
  9. nothing 6.5%
  10. OESD 6.5%

Now more sets and two pair are ahead of us but our hand is still good 82% of the time. In fact, let’s throw in different turn cards:

  1. A = 92%
  2. K = 88
  3. Q = 96
  4. T = 82
  5. 9 = 89
  6. 8 = 87
  7. 7 = 87
  8. 6 = 87
  9. 5 = 87
  10. 4 = 87
  11. 3 = 90
  12. 2 = 87

Similarly our equity has dropped very little because the opening flop was so dry. The difference now is that we did not challenge our opponent on the flop by betting and he is now unsure whether we have anything and he can take it away with a bet. Or he may be more willing to call a turn or river bet than he was willing to call a flop bet simply because we did not bet the flop.

This really, really requires taking your opponent into consideration. At the micro levels don’t get fancy, just bet your hand for value. Just bet when you hit, as well as bet when you miss and the board is dry. At the lowest levels there are too many players that call with a huge range of hands and will call your flop bet anyway if they caught bottom pair on the A93 flop, or will call you down with their pocket 5s hoping that you’re bluffing all the way or their miracle set will fill on the river. Like I wrote above, by not betting the flop this loses one street of value from hands that might call multiple streets, and there are too many players at the $10 tables that will happily call flop turn and river bets with their 98/55/T3s anyway. When you miss the board and you don’t improve on the turn, if he’s a calling station, check/fold.

Or, if your opponent is weak postflop and never bets out or bluffs, then waiting for the turn card allows him to pick up something, enough that he may be willing to call a turn bet where he would have folded to a flop bet.

In the opposite direction, a player that sees this flop and sees you check behind rather than bet, if he thinks that you’re capable of not betting in order to induce action he may not be willing to pay you off unless he has a hand that he feels has sufficient showdown value. That’s a jump of like a couple levels in terms of thinking from the previous players, but you can also find players capable of thinking like this even at the $10 games.

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