Every poker player, no matter how talented, has experienced a time when their once-healthy stack has been whittled down to the point of desperation. Being short-stacked can cause many players to suddenly start making poor decisions, but thankfully there is a clear strategy to turn to in such moments: fold equity.
Fold equity is an equation that can be used when players have a short stack in No-Limit games. By utilising this tool, players can calculate the equity they can hope to win if their opponent chooses to fold.
Equity is the term used to describe a player’s share of the current pot. This is commonly displayed as a percentage to highlight their probability of winning, but can also be expressed as the expected value. For instance, a player’s equity would be a quarter of the pot’s value if their cards had a 25% chance of winning.
Essentially, fold equity takes the above concept further by letting players calculate what they can win if they force their opponent to fold their cards by betting or raising. To calculate fold equity, use the equation below:
Fold Equity = likelihood of opponent folding X gain in equity if opponent folds
The first half of the equation will require a lot of observation to determine how likely an opponent is to fold on each hand. To gather a clearer profile, there are two ways to gather data:
Fold equity is of immense value to poker players because it can provide a solid strategy in the moments when they are more likely to make rash decisions. This proactive strategy can help players seize control by stealing pots from players who are more likely to sit back and call. Players who utilise fold equity give themselves two ways to win by making more aggressive bets based on rational logic.
There is no set process to figure out this value. Players simply have to use all of the information they can gather to figure out how often their opponent folds. For this example, let’s say the opponent folds on 70% of their hands.
For this example, the main player holds a pair of eights, while their opponent has a queen and a nine. In this instance, the player using the strategy has just over a 55% chance of winning a £100 pot, resulting in £55 pot equity. Meanwhile, the opponent has a 45% chance to win and £45 pot equity.
Combine the opponent’s 70% (or, 0.7) likelihood of folding with their 45% equity and the fold equity is 31.5% (0.7*45). The player can then add the 31.5% fold equity to their 55% cards to realise that they actually have an 86.5% chance of winning.
However, the above value would drop to 68.5% if the opponent folded on just 30% of hands. Fold equity will only be effective with accurate reads. There are plenty of effective fold equity calculators available online for those who want to explore their calculations in greater depth before they play.
This is thought of as an advanced poker strategy because players can never be completely certain of which cards their opponent is holding. Consequently, it should generally be reserved for going against opponents who are easier to read.
There are many more figures to consider when playing more than a couple of opponents. Fold equity can become irrelevant against reckless players who do not hold to a set pattern. The same can be said for short-stacked players who feel compelled to take risks to remain in the game. Always avoid using fold equity against these players, as they simply break the strategy.
The ideal time to calculate fold equity is with a short stack and when playing against opponents who are displaying clear patterns of play. Knowing the fold equity can provide the focus and reassurance needed to make sound decisions and get back into the game.
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