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You gotta know when to fold

To play poker well you need to know when to quit or as Kenny Rogers so eloquently put it “you need to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em”. To fold or to “muck” is to throw in the hand you have and give up your stake in the pot. This is difficult to do when you are one of the blinds and have already placed chips in the pot.

Playing poker strategically is even more difficult online because all you can really see is your dwindling stock – advice for folding while playing poker online is as multi-faceted as the games of poker are. Most people fold to little, or too much. Learning how to do it for the right amount of time is tricky, but it is something you can master with time, patience and practice.

Using Your Folds to Bluff

When to fold largely depends on your particular online strategy and style of play; if your goal is to unsettle your opponents and you are a passive player then fold less often while if you are an aggressive player you should fold the hands that you would normally run with.

If you fold you have no chance of winning the round. This might seem like an obvious statement, but remember that a sizeable part of poker strategy comes down to how successfully you can bluff.

Expert players often win even when all they are holding in their hand is a Pair. When you fold, you reduce your equity – your chance of winning the pot – to 0. Another strategy point you need to consider here is that if you fold too often, you become a target for your experienced tablemates. If you only go to showdown with very high-ranked hands, you'll be very easy to bluff and pressure.

On the other hand, if you don't fold often enough and play too many weak hands, your competitors will know that they stand a good chance of beating you even when you bet and raise. This isn't desirable either. Ultimately, you don't want to show any kind of obvious pattern to your betting behaviour.

You’ll learn more about what your playing style is as you go along and your online game develops. When you have a good idea of your own tendencies, you can decide on how often you want to fold. You need to strike a balance so that your opponents can't predict what you are going to do, or what cards you're holding. There are also a few basic pointers to bear in mind when considering whether to “hold'em or fold'em”.

Understand These ‘Golden’ Rules:

  1. Keep focussed on the flop and know when to fold a good hand if you know you’re beat.
  2. A face card on its own will not beat a low kicker. If you have a K-8, you should fold.
  3. Don’t fall in love with your cards no matter how good the hand is. Pocket aces will never beat a straight.
  4. Keep an eye out for straights and flushes on the turn, play the odds and if you need to, fold.
  5. If you call on one street, continue to the next street.

Interpreting Other Players' Folds

Don't forget that just as you are trying to unsettle your tablemates with your folding behaviour, so they are trying to unsettle you with theirs. Note how frequently they are folding, and the rankings of the hands they feel confident to continue playing with. If they never fold on low cards, you stand a good chance of winning when you're handing a reasonable hand.