Fold Equity

What is it?  And why should you care?

Well if you happen to play tournament poker, well any poker for that matter, but especially mtt’s…this is a concept you must understand and fully exploit.

Without getting too technical, fold equity is value that is created by a players likelihood to give up a hand or pot under the right conditions combined with your gained value from accumulating those chips.   Ever notice how many players will begin to tighten up their butt cheeks more than an unflowered 18 year old girl when the tournament money gets within reach…what?  I digress.  

Let’s say your are playing in a tournament and it is starting to get toward the later rounds, near the bubble.  You are slightly above average in chips, and the rest of your table has about the same.  You always read/hear about the correct strategy in this stage of the tournament is to open up your game, get more aggressive.  The standard player will do the opposite, as they are waiting for the bubble to burst, so they play tight.  They are not going to the river without an extremely strong hand.  As such, you may exploit the fact that it is difficult to make an extremely strong hand, and can push the action in marginal situations.  More often than not, players will be folding, giving up to any sign of strength.

Another way to look at fold equity is analyzing a players hand ranges.  What types of hands is a player willing to show down with?  Top pair, no kicker?  Ace high?  Only monsters? This is crucial to understanding how much fold equity you have in a given situation.  If a player is calling down everything, clearly you don’t have much equity there in trying to push him/her off the hand.  If a player has shown they are capable of making big laydowns, or does not defend their blinds without a monster….now we have something to work with.  Understanding an opponents calling range and how it changes under different conditions is a key concept needed to win a tournament.  

As a general rule, the farther away from the average chip stack a player is the less likely they are to fold.  Meaning most short stacks will often find a wide range of acceptable calling/pushing hands, and very large stack type players can often justify calling in a lot of spots due to blind/ante increases and general pot odds.  Of course there will be contrary examples to this where players will be extremely passive, but they should be pretty easy to identify.

You will be able to find the most equity in situations when a player will be severely crippled by losing chips.  Meaning, he’s got something to lose.  Average to above average stacks in quick structure tournaments should be the target, as these players believe they have almost enough chips to make the money.  Also, passive short and big stacks may present good opportunities to chip up if they appear to be in cruise control only playing premium hands, but as mentioned before, be careful as they can find a wide range of hands to look you up with. 

Give these thoughts a try in your next tournament.  You may bust out in a blaze of glory, or you’ll find yourself rising to the top of the leader board.  Either is a great result.  Screw limping into the money.  Chip up or ship out.  Weeeeeeee. 

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