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Fold Equity

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Fold Equity

Fold equity is a strategy that makes semi-bluffs lucrative. It's very simple but you need to know what poker equity is, so if you don't know read the article about it first.

What does fold equity mean?

When you think your opponent might fold to your bet, then you gain additional equity, which is known as fold equity.

Whenever you play poker, there is always a chance that your opponent will fold and if this happens you win the whole pot, no matter how strong your hand is.

The possibility that our opponent folds to our bet increases our equity in the poker hold'em hand since we have an extra chance to win the pot instead of just showing down the strongest hand.

This means that every time we place a bet and there is a chance our opponent will fold our hand has extra equity. Picture your overall equity as follows:

Overall equity = current equity + fold equity.

The amount of fold equity that can be added to the current equity in a poker hand varies depending on the situation. Basically, fold equity can be summarized as follows:

How much fold equity do I have?
  • If you think your opponent will probably fold to your bet, you have a lot of fold equity.
  • If you think your opponent is not likely to fold to your bet, you have little fold equity.
  • If you think your opponent will fold to your bet, you have no fold equity.

How do you gain fold equity?

In order to have fold equity, you need to either bet or raise, so as to give your opponent the chance to fold.

Mathematics of fold equity

Every time you bet, you are taking in a part of your opponent's equity if there is the possibility that he will fold. The following is the equation of fold equity:

Fold equity = (chance our opponent folding) * (opponent's equity in the hand).

You can calculate the percentage chance that your opponent will fold based on how well you know your opponent. For example, based on experience you could say that your opponent folds 75% of the time when he is in a certain situation.

On the other hand, your opponent's equity in the hand is the percentage of the pot they expect to win by the river, or in other words, the percentage equity their range has.

Total equity in a hand

Total equity = your current equity + fold equity.

Your total equity in a hand is equal to your current equity plus your fold equity. Only fold equity is not enough, so you have to add your standard equity to obtain your overall equity in a poker Texas hold'em hand.

An example of fold equity

Suppose you are on the flop and you know that your opponent thas KDiamond JClover on the following flop:

Flop: QSpades KHeart 2Spades
Your hand is: 9Spades TSpades - 42.4% equity.
Your opponent's hand: KDiamond JClover - 57.6% equity.

Your opponent makes the first move and bets in to you. However, you have a short stack and you think that if you go all-in there will be a 50% chance that your opponent will fold. You can see that this will be a profitable play in the long run.

  • Fold equity = (chance your opponent will fold) * (opponent's equity in the hand).
  • Fold equity = (0.5) * (57.4).
  • Fold equity = 28.8%.

If you calculate your total equity in the hand.

  • Total equity = your current equity + fold equity.
  • Total equity = 42.4% + 28.8%.
  • Total equity = 71.2%.

This means that every time you push all-in with your drawing hand you will have on average 71.2% equity in the hand. As a result, although calling to complete the draw would not be profitable with 42.4% equity, if you add the fold equity it makes your shove a profitable move in the long run.

Benefits of fold equity

Fold equity makes semi-bluffs profitable. Most of the time you'll find yourself using fold equity to have an extra advantage when you bet or raise with a flush or a straight draw.

In general, by themselves these kinds of draws don't have enough equity to make it profitable calling bets and raises. Take into account, however, that when you are the player betting and raising, fold equity will be added and this could turn the general equity in your favor. You'll find that semi-bluffs with drawing hands are profitable in the long run.

Pure bluffs and fold equity

Depending on fold equity, a pure bluff will be lucrative or not because when your hand is not strong and you have not equity in it, you'll only rely on your fold equity to make the bluff profitable. Look at this example:

Board: Q Spades KHeart 2Spades 8Clover 2Diamond

Your hand: 9Spades TSpades - 0% equity.

Opponent's hand: K Diamond JClover - 100% equity.

Your bluff will only be lucrative if you think that your opponent folds at least 50% of the time. Your fold equity will be equal to the total equity in this case (current equity=0), which means that if the percentage is less than 50 in the long run you'll lose more money than you'll win.

Fold equity evaluation

You don't need to calculate your fold equity every time you bluff or semi-bluff but you can estimate it and make a decision based on it when you are in the middle of a semi-bluff.

You should reconsider making the semi-bluff in case you have small fold equity or none at all.

Make the concept of fold equity familiar to you and use it without worrying about numbers while you are playing and your ability to semi-bluff will improve over time.

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