FOLD--a four letter word
If you want to be wisely selfish, care for others. All the happiness and virtue in this world comes from selflessness and generosity, all the sorrow from egotism, selfishness, and greed Lama Surya Das
Taking Riverrun’s initiative, I’m going to make a post about folding. Seven years ago when I started playing regularly, I used to fold a lot more. The main strength to my game lied in my patience and discipline. There used to be a saying, “If you never fold a winning hand, you can’t possibly win in the long run.” While some of the rocks might have taken that saying too far years ago, many of the looser, newer players don’t realize how true this saying actually is.
I remember the time I was playing stud hi-lo when a pretty good player bet into me heads up and I folded a marginal EV hand that most of the players at the table would have called with based on my board, and Mickey turned to me and says “Nobody folds a hand like you, Kev” and showed me his three Aces.
Over the years, much of my game has improved; my reading ability, my value bets, my ability to manipulate pots and pot sizes, my understanding of stack sizes in tournaments, etc. But my folding ability is the one area that has probably become a little worse and perhaps I need to get back to my roots. Some of this is natural due to the increased, though often misplaced, aggression that some players have in the post-WPT era. It used to be that when someone raised you, it generally meant you were beaten unless you had a big hand and a fold was worth more in the long run to your bottom line than a call or raise. The occasional overplaying or bluffing was not frequent enough to necessitate “paying them off” with a call very often. Today, however, players are a bit more aggressive, and many of them overplay hands, so I tend to pay them off a bit more frequently than I used to. It’s not so much that they are outright bluffing all that much more often, but more so that there are so many poor players who are raising hands they think are the best because they just aren’t in tune enough with the game to know that their hand is not the best.
Just last night I played a hand where I had 99, I raised and was reraised preflop, I bet the K65 flop and was raised again. I gave some thought to reraising this opponent cause I had an aggressive image at this table and he may be playing back at me with less, but I was out-of-position with two streets to come and decided I would fold this time. My opponent tabled AQ for all to see. It was a strange hand to show. Why did he show it? I asked him if he was showing it because he thought he was ahead or because he thought he was behind and had bluffed me, and from his reaction I could tell that he really didn’t know the answer. Finally, he said “I think I was ahead”. Although this was the on the flop and there could be other reasons to be raising here, I see people make raises like this later in the hand, even on the river with position, with unpaired AK or with a hand like JJ that they “slowplay” until there are two overcards on the board. These are hands that have showdown value on the river, but the holder of the cards doesn’t know if he's ahead or behnd, and doesn't realize that he is trying a river value bet that has no value if called and either can't get a better hand to fold in limit or doesn't bet enough to be bluffing in no-limit. I believe this is the basis for the “Dark Tunnel Bluff” theory that Harrington wrote about in one of his books.
Obviously, you don’t make anything on a particular hand by folding, but the value you save can be enormous and I still contend that especially in full-ring games, even in today’s over-aggressive games, more end-of-the-month profit is derived from correct folds than correct calls, both in limit and no-limit. In no-limit, correct betting amounts is probably more important than either, but catching bluffs in the lower limit no-limit games is usually of less value than folding obviously beaten hands. This may become somewhat less true in short-handed games and in higher stakes games, but is still a factor. And I’m not talking about making “great laydowns” like folding your set because you think someone has a bigger set. I’m talking about folding your KJ because you’ve bet and been raised on the KQ46 turn by a tight player.
In relating all this to zen, I find that people are often unable to fold hands because of their ego. They can’t handle being “shown up” if someone shows them a bluff, and can’t stand the not knowing if they made the right decision or not if the player doesn’t show. Folding (or not folding) correctly is a lot about ego and you can capitalize on this by lessening your own ego and taking advantage of your opponents tendencies to protect their's.
Okay, I’ve convinced myself, I’m going to make a special effort to concentrate on this a bit more the rest of this week.