Understanding Fold Equity

Fold equity is a tricky subject that many poker players just don’t understand. It can be difficult to explain exactly what fold equity is, but here is a real life example. If you offered to raise your hand while in class and got the answer correct 40% of the time and got in incorrect 20% of the time, you would have 40% equity for those times where you weren’t called on. The 40% where you aren’t called on, coupled with those times where you are and get it correct, will outweigh the times where you get the question wrong. This is an example of what is called a +EV move. A +EV move in poker is a play that has a positive expected value. It doesn’t matter if you can lose this one random hand, just so long as you are making the best long term move.

Flush or Straight Draws

One of the most common times that you will encounter fold equity is when you have some sort of strong draw. Pretend that a hand plays out like this on the flop…

You are holding As 8s and the flop is 7s Js Qh.

If the other player leads out for $20 into the $35 pot and you go all in for $100, the $80 extra that you raise will have some fold equity factored in. If your opponent called your shove every single time you would be roughly break even, but those times where they fold will help to turn this into a profitable situation. Let’s look at this as we did with the example above…

Opponent calls and we lose 30% of the time

Opponent calls and we win 30% of the time

Opponent folds and we win 40% of the time

This means that we will take down the pot, one way or another, 70% of the time. The fold equity that we have in the hand is found in the times where our opponent folds to a re raise all in. Because we win 70% of the time this play is considered +EV (positive expected value). Sure, we will lose the pot 30% of the time, but you have to play each hand in poker with the frame of mind that you are doing what is best for the long term. Don’t get frustrated if you happen to lose a hand like this because it will inevitably happen. Remember that the players who keep the long term in mind will always come out on top in poker.