Folding for the Win | Jonathan Little

Folding for the Win | Jonathan Little

Today I am going to share with you a situation that occasionally comes up in No-Limit Hold’em tournaments that you must master if you want to succeed. To illustrate this concept, I will use a hand from a $3,500 buy-in World Poker Tour event I recently played at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

With blinds at 400/800 with a 100, I raised to 2,000 out of my 100,000 stack from first position at a nine-handed table with Ad-Qc. While you should make a point to play snugly from early position, A-Q is almost always strong enough to raise, especially if you want to have a loose image. A 50 year old player with 30,000 chips called from middle position. An excellent loose, aggressive kid reraised to 7,800 out of his 85,000 stack from the small blind.

When the small blind (or big blind) reraises against a first position raiser, it is usually an extreme sign of strength because the first position raiser should have a strong range. Also, the players in the blinds will usually elect to call, given they either are, or effectively are, closing the action. However, my opponent in the small blind is a loose, aggressive player, which means he is almost certainly capable of bluffing in this situation some portion of the time. That said, I did not expect him to get too out of line, given I generally play a tight range from early position that is not too susceptible to being bluffed. Also, I was concerned that the 50 year old caller could have a premium hand that he didn’t plan to fold.

All of this taken into consideration, calling doesn’t seem like a great option because I could be crushed by the small blind and the 50 year old caller may also have a strong hand. Calling will result in me playing a large pot against two ranges, one of which should be strong. Against a range of the best hands, A-A – 10-10, A-K, and A-Q, my A-Q only has 34% equity, which is quite poor. If you add another player to the mix, even if he has a relatively wide range including suited connectors and small pairs, A-Q still only has 25% equity. Since there would then be three players in the pot, I would like to have at least 33% equity to break even, not accounting for my poor position. In general, when significant money goes into the pot (as it clearly is in this situation), you want to have a reasonable amount of equity, assuming you are not deep stacked such that you can expect to win a huge amount of chips when you happen to get lucky to flop a premium hand. 4-betting also doesn’t seem like a good play for the same reasons, although A-Q is a decent bluffing candidate due to having two relevant blockers. This analysis led me to make a snug fold.

To my surprise, the 50 year old player instantly went all-in with 8-8 and the loose, aggressive kid called with A-K. Fortunately for me, I dodged a bullet as I would have invested a significant amount of money with a hand that was severely dominated. While I typically do not try to make big folds, especially when I have an aggressive image, from time to time, folding is the prudent play.

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Author: Steve Bowman