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When to fold a big hand

One of the most difficult, but important, skills in no limit poker is laying down a big hand. Novice players will call almost anything with top pair and good players know this. The pro probably makes more money off novices who refuse to fold top pair than any other situation. That isn't to say top pair isn't a strong hand - it is - it is just not strong enough to automatically showdown.

The key to knowing when to fold is getting a good read on your opponents. This can only come with practice and, of course, time at the table in question. Once you get good at reading opponents you should always trust your read and call or fold based on that information (as well as the pot and bet size, of course). Calling a tiny bet only requires a small chance of you having the best hand, but calling a pot bet demands that you be at least 50% sure you have the best hand.

If you are new to a table or not experienced at reading players, there are some general principles you can use as a rough guide. The first thing you should know is that it is sometimes OK to fold a big hand, even a winning hand. You will lose less money by making a bad fold than by making a bad call. There will always to another opportunity to pick off a bluff if you fold, but there may not be one if you make a bad call. If you fold, people will continue to try and bluff, but if you make a bad call they will know you are likely to call their bets down with not much. They will stop bluffing and instead focus on burning you for calling too easily.

Secondly, you should understand that certain hands are not strong enough to call all but the most habitual bluffers with. If you have AK pre-flop and there are multiple big raises ahead of you it is probably time to fold. At best you are going to be a small underdog to QQ or JJ, and you will be staring at very long odds every time you come up against AA or KK. If you call and miss the flop, you will be pretty much drawing dead and, worse yet, you might hit the flop only to find out you are still way behind.

Top pair, weak kicker is rarely a hand that will win a big pot. If there is a lot of betting, get out the way. You are likely behind and possibly even drawing dead to a made set or two pair. Top pair, top kicker is NOT the nuts. Sometimes you will have to fold such a hand - either because the board is drawn or because a tight player has suddenly turned into a maniac.

Even two pair is a fairly weak hand again a tight player showing aggression. In short, always use caution when you might be beat and fold when you have good reason to believe you are beat. It is not worth risking your stack on the off chance you are being bluffed.

JackRag


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