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Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Five Situations Where You Fold Too Much

Miller Explains Why You Shouldn't Fold So Often

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Ed MillerI generate much of my edge in live no-limit hold’em games by getting people to fold in situations they shouldn’t fold. Sure, a lot of it also comes in those uncommon pots where all the money goes in, I have a set, and my opponent turns over some head-scratcher, no-hope hand. But certainly the most consistent edge comes from banging away until people fold.

If you’re like most of my opponents, you fold too often in some specific situations. Here are five of them that arise commonly:

Situation 1. Ace-high and overcard hands on rag boards

You have A-J or K-Q on a board like 6-6-2 rainbow. When the board comes rags, relatively few hands hit it. This means that unpaired big card hands are still among the better hands available. For example, say someone plays roughly the best 20 percent of hands preflop. On a 6-6-2 rainbow flop, this player will have a pair or better (i.e., a six, a deuce, or a pocket pair) only 28 percent of the time. This means that a hand like A-J is still much better than the average hand.

Not only does A-J still preserve a lot of value on a rag board just for its showdown value, the hands it’s most likely to be behind are hands like 5-5 or 9-9. A-J has six live outs against these pocket pairs. Furthermore, a player with a pocket pair has to be concerned about overcards that hit. So if a king or queen hits the turn, for instance, the player with A-J can often turn the hand profitably into a bluff.

When the board comes rags, don’t be quick to fold, especially holding a big card hand. You can call on the flop and even sometimes on the turn as well.

Situation 2. Monochrome boards

When the flop comes all one suit, many players mentally check out on the hand if they don’t hold a flush or a strong flush draw. But this reaction overestimates the chance that another player has flopped a flush.

Using that 20 percent preflop range from the previous example, on a flop like KDiamond Suit 6Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit, a player flops a flush only about five percent of the time. They hold the nut flush draw only another six percent of the time. They hold any diamond at all only about 37 percent of the time.

That means that about 63 percent of the time, a player who plays a typical preflop range will have no flush and no draw on a monochrome flop. Some of these hands are top pair, but you can usually get players off top pair on these flops if you keep betting.

“But Ed,” you say, “My opponents don’t play 20 percent of hands. They play any two suited cards. These flops are exactly what they’re looking for.”

Not so fast. If I adjust the range to a roughly 60 percent range that includes any two suited cards (and also a number of questionable unsuited hands as well, since loose players play loose), the flush percentage increases from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. That’s it. The flush draw numbers don’t change a lot either.

The bottom line is that when a flop comes monochrome, any given player is a favorite to have no flush and no draw. If you see such a flop two- or three-handed, it can be a good opportunity to rep the flush and stick around until everyone else folds.

Situation 3. An over card hits the board on the turn

Players who have flopped a pair fold too much when an overcard comes on the turn. Say I raise preflop, and you call with J-10 suited. The flop comes 10-7-5. You check and call. A king hits the turn. You check, and I bet.

Many players seem to assume that, since I raised preflop, I probably have either a pocket pair or overcards like A-K or K-Q. When a king hits and I bet, they figure that one way or another, their J-10 is beat.

The problem is that I can have plenty of hands besides overpairs and overcards. I can have hands like A-5 suited or 7-6 suited. I can have hands like 6-6. I can also have unpaired big card hands like A-Q and A-J.

Many players stick it out for one more street with a good kicker, such as A-10, but players fold so often after an overcard hits the turn that, in this situation, I tend to bet all my hands that can’t beat top pair.

Situation 4. Drawing hands on the turn

Most regular players have learned that it’s not right to “chase” draws on the turn. With only one card to come, typical draws like flush and straight draws are nearly 4-to-1 underdogs to come in. In no-limit, you’re often facing at least a half-pot bet, which offers only 3-to-1 odds. Getting 3-to-1 on a 4-to-1 proposition is not good.

But that doesn’t mean you should simply fold all these drawing hands. There are two reasons. First, you can sometimes make money on the river after the draw hits. This concept of implied odds is fairly well understood. Except in a typical $2-$5 game, many players will go out of their way to avoid paying you off if you get there on the river. Often implied odds can’t justify a call either.

But when people go out of their way to fold the river, you have a potential bluffing opportunity. This is why it’s not right to fold all your draws on the turn. If you miss, your hand still has value as a bluff. Typical regular players don’t carry enough draws to the river, and they don’t bluff often enough on the river either. They’d be more dangerous if they drew more often and then sometimes fired the river when they missed.

Situation 5. Against small bets

Typical small stakes regulars simply give too much credit to small bets. This is somewhat true on the flop, but it becomes very true on the turn and river. It’s way too easy to bet one-third or one-quarter pot on the turn and river and get a fold. In many hands, I can bet $150 on the river into a $500-plus pot and still be fairly sure I will get a fold. That just ain’t right.

Final Thoughts

It’s possible (indeed likely in some circumstances) that many of these folds are not, strictly speaking, wrong in your games. That’s because your opponents aren’t bluffing properly in these situations. So when they do bet, you can fairly expect A-J to be no good on a 7-3-2 board. You can expect Q-9 to be no good on a 9-5-4-J board. You can expect they have the near-nuts when they bet the river, no matter how small they bet.

But if you are folding in these situations and folding correctly, likely your regular opponents fold in these situations as well. This makes them prime bluffing opportunities. Next time you play, be on the lookout and see if you can sneak in an extra bluff. ♠

Ed’s newest book, Poker’s 1%: The One Big Secret That Keeps Elite Players On Top is available now at his website edmillerpoker.com. You can also find original articles and instructional videos by Ed at the brand new site redchippoker.com.