The Ultimate Guide to Folding in Poker

Poker Academy
29 May 2024
Holdem Strategy
29 May 2024

In poker, it is crucial to properly use the five actions: bet, raise, call, check, and fold.

Among these actions, the folding goal is to minimize your losses. By folding appropriately, you can avoid losing chips to opponents with stronger hands.

What is Folding?

In poker, folding means quitting the pot. When you fold, you lose the right to win the pot and any chips you have bet until that point.

Folding means you won't win the pot, but it will minimize the amount you lose.

Folding Means Giving Up Equity

When you fold, you are giving up your equity.

Even very weak hands in poker have a few percent chance of winning before the river.  

For example, suppose the flop is A♦9♠3♥, your opponent has A♣K♠, and you have 5♥6♥.

Although it may seem like you have no chance of winning, you still have an 8.89% chance of winning. There are various ways you could still win, such as completing a flush if both the turn and river bring hearts, hitting a straight if a 4 and a 7 appear, or making two pairs if a 5 and a 6 appear.

However, if you fold, your chances of winning drop to 0. You can no longer participate in the pot, so it doesn’t matter if those cards come out.

In other words, folding is the act of giving up equity in exchange for avoiding increasing your losses.

However, on the river, since equity is fixed, folding does not mean giving up equity.

Things to Consider When Folding

When you’re unsure whether to fold, here are some important factors to consider:

Is Your Opponent Bluffing?

When you’re unsure whether to fold, it’s often because you don’t know if your opponent is bluffing.

Poker has various hand analysis methods and solvers that can provide answers, but ultimately it comes down to whether your hand can beat your opponent's hand.

Many players will fold simply because a GTO strategy indicates that folding is correct in a given spot, but this only applies if the opponent is playing according to GTO strategy.

No opponent can play exactly according to GTO all the time. Small deviations can make a difference in whether you should call or fold, so think carefully about your opponent's range and playing style.

Equity and Odds

The decision to fold or not is based on equity and odds. Even if you have a losing hand, calling might be justified, if you have a draw that could catch its outs.

For example, suppose the flop is 5♥9♣K♥, you hold A♥3♥, and your opponent has A♦K♠.

If your opponent bets $100 into a $100 pot, you shouldn't fold just because you are currently losing. A♥3♥ has 37.17% equity, which justifies a call.

Furthermore, if you complete your flush, you could win additional chips from your opponent, so there is also implied odds.

Сalling with drawing hands that can win against strong hands often can be the correct decision, even if the odds don’t seem favorable.

Misconceptions About Folding

Here are three common misconceptions about folding.

1. I fold because I often lose

The first misconception is folding just because you often lose. While this might be correct in some situations, it’s not the reason to fold at all.

For instance, suppose the board is 2♣2♠2♥2♦3♥, your opponent's range consists of AA, KK and 44, and you have QQ. If the pot is $100 and your opponent bets $25 each time, should you fold QQ just because you often lose?

The pot odds here are $25/$150 = 16%.

QQ wins about 33% of the time (since you can beat 44), so the odds are favorable enough for a call.

Losing more than 50% of the time does not necessarily mean you should fold. Always calculate the bluff ratio and pot odds to decide whether to fold.

2. Folding to Hide Your Hand

The second misconception is folding to hide your hand. Some players think, "If my opponent sees this hand, they'll figure out my strategy, so I'll fold to avoid that". However, if your opponent figures out your strategy, just adjust your strategy accordingly.

Exposing your strategy => Opponent adjusts => You adjust to counter their adjustments

Avoid giving up the immediate EV just to hide your hand.

3. Using MDF Alone to Determine Folding Frequency

MDF (Minimum Defense Frequency) indicates the minimum percentage of time you must defend against a bet or raise to avoid being exploited.

However, strictly adhering to MDF can often lead to mistakes.

On unfavorable boards, you don’t need to meet MDF and can defend less.

For example, UTG opens, BTN calls, flop is K♦K♣T♥. On this board, BTN folds 31.7% of the time against 33% c-bet from UTG. MDF is 25%.

Since this board is unfavorable for the BTN, which has many weak hands like 45s or 56s, it’s understandable that they can’t defend as much.

Moreover, factors like board texture, position, and equity distribution can justify defending less than MDF suggests. Therefore, using MDF as a reference isn’t always appropriate.

Preflop Folds

Preflop, you should fold about 75% of your hands, although of course this number will vary depending on the number of players and their positions.

For example, in a 6-max game, UTG folds 82% of the time. Following positions fold as HJ 79%, CO 72%, BTN 58%, and SB 51%.

The fewer players behind, the less often you fold.

Postflop Folds

Postflop folding significantly impacts your long-term wins and losses. Folding correctly minimizes your losses.

1. When You Miss the Flop at All

If you don’t hit a pair or a draw, it’s best to fold.

With no potential to make a strong hand and facing a large bet, folding is the correct decision.

However, when you have a strong draw or a backdoor (against a small bet), you shouldn't fold.

Instead of folding, consider raising or calling with strong draws.

2. When Odds Don’t Justify a Call

You shouldn’t call when the odds don’t justify it.

For example, should you fold if you face a bet in this situation? If you calculate the pot odds, it looks like you can call with about 37%.

If your opponent isn't bluffing, you need to draw an A or a Q on the river. The probability of drawing them is about 16%, which is not in line with the odds. Furthermore, you are in a disadvantageous position, and even if you draw a straight, you will not be able to take any more chips if your opponent checks. Therefore, folding here is the better option.

3. Against Non-Bluffing Players

When a non-bluffing player bets, and your hand isn’t strong enough, it’s wise to fold.

Especially on the river, raises usually indicate strong hands. Even with top pair, if your opponent only bets or raises with stronger hands, folding can save you from losing more chips.


Folding is crucial to minimize your losses even though you give up some equity. By folding appropriately, you can easily maximize your long-term win rate in poker!

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