by Ashley Adams
We all know that correctly folding a losing hand can save you money. The better you are at reading your opponents, and thus the better you are at assessing when you are beaten or significantly behind, the greater will be your savings from folding correctly. I’d like to look at another advantage that accrues from folding. It is an advantage that stems from how folding affects your image in the minds of your opponents.
In the old fashioned home game, where buddies play poker regularly with each other, images are fashioned over time. Reputations for betting styles, long developed, are not soon to change no matter what the actual betting may be in one series of hands or even over the course of a few regular poker nights. But in public poker rooms and on line the image that your opponents will have of you is created quickly. In a casino, your image depends predominantly on what you have done recently at the poker table. Exposed as players are to so many opponents, few will actually keep a book on you. Unlike online poker, where note taking is easy (and with the help of some software automatic), public poker room opponents will decide what kind of a player you are, and how to play against you, based on how you’ve played at their table over the session you’re in.
It is in that context that I want you to consider the power of folding. It doesn’t just save you money, it also affects your image. The more you fold, the tighter you’ll be viewed. And the tighter you’re viewed, the more respect your opponents will give your future bets and raises.
Consider the two following poker situations. In the first, you have started with relatively strong hands ten of the 20 hands that have been dealt since sitting down. In every one of those instances you either initiated the betting or 3-bet the person who did. In a few cases everyone conceded the pot to you right there. In every other instance you bet out on the flop and kept firing until no one called. Not one of those times did you have to showdown. You won each and every one of the ten hands you were in when your opponents eventually folded to you.
In the second example you were dealt awful starting cards every single one of your 20 hands. You folded pre-flop each time, not even calling the large blind.
It is now your 21st hand. In this $1/$2 no limit game you are in the cutoff seat. The player under the gun, known to be loose and aggressive, raises to $12. Four players call. It is your action. You make it $50. How might your opponents react to you based on your image in the first example? How about the second example?
Not to belabor the obvious, but in the first example, when you’d been betting and raising aggressively in half of the hands you saw, your opponents would tend not to respect your late position, over-the-top raise nearly as much as they would if you had folded every single one of your hands pre-flop, as you did in the second example. Even a poor player would probably notice the difference and react to it. Your image would be different and so your opponents’ reactions to your $50 bet would be different.
In the second example you’d be much more likely to get most if not all of your opponents to fold to your re-raise. Your raise, coming on the heels of so many of your folds, would therefore have more power behind it, respected as it would be by your opponents.
If we think of each hand as a battle, then our bets are our bullets. Our folds add gunpowder to those bullets, increasing their power and force. We can use that increased power to our advantage, bluffing and semi-bluffing with great confidence as these situations arise. It’s understandable to view folding as a sign of weakness. But when I fold, I just imagine the increase in power the fold gives to my bets in the future. And I smile inwardly at how I will unleash it later in the game.
Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-card Stud, both available at Amazon.com. He is also the host of the popular poker radio show, House of Cards. For listening times and stations, to get a podcast of the show, or to check out the blog, go to www.houseofcardsradio.com. You can email Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.