When To Make A Big Fold

I have always believed that anyone can make a big call, but it takes a real poker player to make a big fold.

I honestly do not find profitable poker to be that difficult. Granted, savant-like poker is incredibly difficult to acquire, but over three to five hours I've taught hundreds of players about how they can make money.

The real problem is playing enough hands. It's very difficult to get great volume in.

That said, profitable poker is found in generally hammering players that play too many hands, and not getting involved in bad situations yourself. Anybody can learn this.

When poker becomes difficult is when you're dealing with shades of gray.

A set is a good hand to hammer with 90% of the time. If you always hammered with a set or at least called down, you'd rarely be wrong. You'd make money over the long run. However, if you want to play big tournaments or cash games, you're going to need to learn how to identify that 10% of the time the hand is not good.

I recently played WPT Montreal. In this event, I made a couple of big folds. Perhaps through discussing them we could help you find ways to make a big fold when it's necessary.

In the first hand, a player opened from UTG early in the tournament. Two people called. I looked down at 2-2. I called in the cutoff. The small blind and the big blind called.

The board came 2-4-5 rainbow. It got checked to me. I bet 50% of the pot. Everyone folded, except for the guy to my direct right. He was a Canadian player. I had no reason to suspect he was a pro. In fact, he seemed to be the most passive player at the table. I hadn't seen him get out of line once.

The turn came an eight. He checked to me. I bet 65% of the pot this time. He called quickly.

Smaller pairs often need a few seconds to think there.

The river came a six. He led half the pot quickly.

You should always take your time in this spot. Sometimes, a guy will give something away.

This isn't an automatic fold, even though the straight came through. He is unlikely to have 4-3s or 2-3s, so I'm really only putting him on 3-3.

How can I be sure it's the right fold here?

Well, for one, we can focus on how the player was passive. Passive players do not turn pairs into bluffs, which is what most guys will need to do here to make this bluff. Most players don't even know how to do that.

Secondly, the fact he did it right away shows he didn't need to think much. Many times a passive player will need at least a few seconds to ponder a bluff before doing it. It's only with a great deal of practice that a player learns to bluff automatically.

I looked at him and said, "I love your hat." He had a Kangol hat on.

Sometimes, if the guy's got the joint, he'll laugh at something stupid like this, and give away that he's relaxed. My guy instead grimaced when I talked to him.

Guys, let me give you a hint: 90% of people will not budge when they're bluffing. You could pet their thigh and they won't move.

When someone goes out of their way to grimace, they usually have it.

Just to make sure, however, I made sure to grill the guy for another minute or two, and to be a little combative verbally.

Usually if you do this, and mock the guy a little, he will be overjoyed to turn over a bluff once you finally fold. This, of course, gives you information you can use later.

I folded. The guy did not turn over a bluff. I was fairly certain my fold was correct.

A little later, I had another hand come up where I had to make a big fold.

An active pro to my right raised in the hijack. I had J-10h and threebet in the cutoff, because most North American pros are horrendous in threebet pots. He dutifully called me out of position.

The board came Js-9d-9h. He checked to me. I bet 40% pot, to get value. He called.

The turn came an eight of hearts, giving me an open-ended straight flush draw.

He checked to me, and I bet half-pot, setting up a river jam in case I hit my heart or straight.

He then took about four minutes, and min-raised me. I bet 7K into the turn. He made it 15K. He had about 11K back.

This is almost never a bluff.

There are guys who can take a long time and then raise small as a bluff, but they are few and far between.

Most people bluff the same way they jump off a cliff into a river: They get their nerve up, and they act before they can think better. They don't stall out looking into the crevice.

The min-raise is more suspect. Kh-Qh, for example, would have likely just jammed to create maximum pressure. He doesn't want to price me in with his draws and weak pairs.

You can't let the fact you have an open-ended straight-flush draw blind you here. If he's checkraising that small, he's almost informing you that he's not worried about the draws on the board. That sounds an awful lot like pocket eights to me.

If he has Q-10, too, another likely hand, my straight outs aren't even good.

His checkraise is actually pretty clever with a good hand, because most players will just see the pot odds price, call, and then go "guess I'm committed" on the river and call again.

Don't rush this process. Think through to the river. You'll see you have a big problem there even if you make your flush and he jams. And 80.5% of the time you won't even be hitting that hand.

When was the last time you turned 7-7 or K-10 into a bluff there in the villain's spot?

Good luck to all of you. 

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