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Fold Equity

by Rep Porter |  Published: Aug 19, 2015


So far in this column, we have explored spots in poker where betting allows you to win pots when your opponent has missed, or has to fold a large portion of their range in a certain situation. There are many other spots in poker where your opponent has a hand that is weaker than yours, but still has chances to win the pot. In many of these spots, you can bet and cause your opponent to fold. Betting in these spots creates what is known as fold equity.

Fold equity can be defined as, “the equity in a pot that you gain when your opponent folds a hand that has chances to win the pot.”

Let’s play a pot with the cards face up so we can look at how this works. In our example, we will have A-A on a JHeart Suit 6Spade Suit 3Diamond Suit flop. Our opponent can have 7Club Suit 6Club Suit. Let’s say the pot is 1,000 chips and we both have 1,000 chips in our stacks. So in this situation, if there was no more betting, we would be 80 percent to win the pot and our opponent would be 20 percent. Or to put it a different way, if we ran this hand out a whole bunch of times, our opponent will win one out of every five on average.

Our opponent wins this pot one-fifth of the time. That means their equity in the pot is one-fifth times the 1,000 chips in the pot, or 200 chips. That makes our equity 800 chips. But what happens if we are allowed to bet on the flop? If the cards are still face up, we should bet our whole stack, 1,000 chips. Now our opponent will have to call 1,000 chips to stay in the pot. They will know that they are behind and that they need to improve to win. With two cards to come, each out (up to about eight) is worth about a four percent chance to win. They may use this or some other shortcut to figure out that they need at least 4-1 to make a profitable call. They are only getting 2-1, so our opponent will have to fold their hand. And when they fold, they are forced to give up their chances to win the pot. This means the 200 chips in equity they used to have shifts to you.

So by choosing to bet, you win the whole pot right now. Your equity goes from the 800 chips that it was if you ran the hand out, to 1,000 chips. So you gained 200 chips in fold equity from your opponent. This happened when you bet and your opponent folded. As you can see, betting and forcing your opponent to fold adds equity to your stack in the long run.

Spots like this come up all the time in poker. You can have 8-8 on a 10Club Suit 7Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit board and your opponent holds AClub Suit KSpade Suit. In this situation, ace-king is about 25 percent to win the pot if the hand goes to showdown. But if you bet your 8-8, and your opponent folds, you win 100 percent of the pot right now. This is a good result. Not only do you increase your equity in the tournament, but you also avoid potentially dangerous situations. When the king comes on the turn and your opponent bets, suddenly you have a tough decision.

Many players fall into the trap of thinking that when they bet and their opponent folds, there is no benefit. This clearly isn’t true. But this easily leads to the, “I didn’t bet there because they wouldn’t have called anyway,” mentality. This is a very unprofitable way to play poker. Allowing your opponents to draw for free is a very expensive habit in the long run. Not only are you allowing them to retain their equity in the pot, but occasionally they will get a well placed value bet in against you and you will lose even more.

Fold equity plays a part in several other ideas in poker as well. You may have heard people say that when you bet, you are creating two ways to win. The two ways to win are; getting called and having the best hand, and causing your opponent to fold and gaining equity that way. It also plays an important role in betting with your draws or semibluffing. These are ideas that I will explore in more detail in an upcoming article. ♠

Rep Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the lead instructor at, whose mission is to help poker players achieve better results through better decisions and that is done by teaching poker in a way that makes learning easy and enjoyable with high quality courses taught by professional players.

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