When to Fold in Poker: 5 Situations When You Should Give Up

Knowing when to fold in poker is just as important as knowing when to bet. Sometimes, the best option is to give up and fold your cards. Here are five situations where folding is the best option.

Television commentators lead us to believe that only a few people have the ability to know when to fold if their opponent holds the nuts. There are also superstitious players who believe they can “read souls.”

Understanding expected value (EV) is key to knowing when to fold in poker. If calling or raising is losing more money over the long-term than folding, then it’s best to muck your hand.

Learning more about ranges will help you to see that correct folds are not difficult. It takes observation and a good sense of your opponent’s actions and ranges to make a difference. When you consider the table dynamic, it is easier to decide if folding is the right action. These advanced concepts can be learned, but you should still follow a few rules to avoid common pitfalls and make -EV decisions.

Here are six common scenarios to be aware of as you decide when to fold in poker.

1. Your Preflop Hand is Trash

For poker players with lots of experience, this may seem obvious. It is something I feel is important to include in this list, as I still see people playing with poor hands that are not profitable.

Keep to a solid opening range

It is a good rule of thumb to keep your opening range tight if you aren’t in late position (seated on or after the Cutoff), Most players would experience a significant increase in their win-rate if the following range was followed or slightly tighter if they were seated in middle or early position.

when to fold in poker

Post-flop decisions will be easier if you stick to hands that are heavily influenced by the high card or suited end of this spectrum. You get into big trouble when you add trash like KTo to non-stealing range.

Stop calling 3-Bets with Junk

For calling a 3-bet opponent’s opponent, you should have a very narrow range. You should have a very narrow range for calling opponent’s 3-bet. In fact, the more skill you have after the flop, the better. This might be your 3-bet flatting range:

when to fold in poker

This range includes hands that are capable of flopping monster hands and draws, and can avoid reverse implied odds situations. This means that you will be less likely to be dominated by calling with a disciplined range. You will soon be able to mix in some 4-bet bluffs once you have gained experience.

Stop Flat-Calling the Blinds

Calling in the blinds is a violation of all three of my poker fundamentals. You will lose your position without any initiative once the flop is down and you will not be able to apply pressure to your opponent.

A lot of skill is required to call in the blinds. The small blind is particularly affected by this. It’s important to get to know your opponent before you hit the call button. The majority of players prefer a 3-bet-or-fold mentality.

2. You are priced out of your draw

I’m sorry, this seems obvious. This is something I see on my tables every day.

The problem is not that people don’t know the odds of a draw. They are too optimistic about implied odds. They are therefore prone to falling for reverse implied odds.

What are the Reverse Implied Odds?

Reverse implied odds is a situation in which you make a call in the hopes of hitting one of your outs, but if you do hit, it either makes your opponent a better hand or they may have had a better hand to begin with.

Here are some examples of holdings that are susceptible for reverse implied odds. Click To Tweet

  • Dummy ends straights
  • Low flush draws
  • Paired boards with straight or flush draws
  • Two-tone boards with a straight draw
  • Overcards

Before you decide whether to raise your draw with your draw, make sure to check to see if there are any outs that aren’t clean. This means that you need to determine how many out cards your opponent might have.

You might hold an open-ended straight draw with a two-tone flip. You would normally have 8 outs. In this instance, however, 2 outs will complete the flush and possibly complete a better draw for you opponents. You have six “clean” outs.

Your position can also dramatically reduce your chances of success.

Holding a Draw if You Don’t Close The Action

Even if your hand is good and you have a high price, it doesn’t matter if the raise or reraise you receive does not result in you closing the action. The profitability of calling with a drawing hand drops dramatically. This is because the players behind you could raise the pot again and force you out of the game.

It is a good rule of thumb to look at your opponent who has not yet acted behind you. If they are a passive or bad player, you should make the implied odds call. If they are an aggressive reg, you should consider folding without a very high price.

The main idea is to not overplay your equity when calculating your odds and implied odds. Sometimes, your situation may not be as favorable as you think. In these cases, you might need to fold.

3. Playing an Ultra-Tight Opponent and You Don’t Have the Nuts

If your opponent’s range favors value, and you have a marginal hand in the game, you should probably pitch it and move on.

Keep in mind that the implied odds against these players will be high so you can play with draws to satisfy your requirements. This is especially true for draws that could be very well-disguised if you were to complete them.

Moral of the story: When you are up against a strong range, made hands have a lower value than draws.

If you are playing a T32 rainbowboard and get raised in the blinds by a tight nitty player with a fold to c-bet of 80% and a raise flop c-bet of 3%, then which parts of your range should you keep and which should be folded?

Let’s suppose you are in the Cutoff, and this was your first range.

when to fold in poker

Let’s pretend that this was your continuation betting range.

when to fold in poker

What hands should you keep going with against a very tight opponent? You will not fold your strongest hands, such as 22, 33, or TT. Let’s look at your equity in this spot with all your top pairs and overpairs.

when to fold in poker

Ouch. You are now crushed with every hand within your reach. In this spot, only AA is financially viable.

The player is saying that they were generous with the range they gave their opponent, and included QQ+ in the range that the opponent may not have slowplayed before flop. There’s no guarantee this will happen, as it is possible a tight player will always 3-bet at minimum KK and AA.

Let’s now give our opponent the same range, and see how the gutshot straight draws for your range compare.

when to fold in poker

In this instance, having an inside straight draw gives you more equity than a player with a tight hand. However, 22% equity is not something to be proud of.

It will be difficult to disguise if your hand is on the river or turn. It is almost certain that you will get the rest of your opponent’s stack. Due to implied odds, you should always call an average-sized raise with this portion of your range.

Moral of the story: You should fold if you have less than 2 pairs on the flop, or a high implied odds hand.

As you can see, if its a tight folder you should fold. But what happens if the two of you both have tight images? There are some subtle differences that will affect your folding strategy.

4. You Have an Intense Image

This is where you get a little more. Imagine you’ve sat down at the table and played a few rounds. You have been dealt absolutely nothing for three hours by the poker gods. You quickly realize that your VPIP is much higher than it usually is and that you are a complete rock.

Let’s suppose that we face a similar scenario against the tough player in #4. You open and are then checked-raised in the face by an opponent with whom you don’t have a long-term relationship. He is not tight except for this moment.

This opponent is clearly a competent loose-aggressive player who checks-raises 20% and folds to c bet 40%. It seems obvious that we should tighten our c-bet range, and then fold almost all made hands in this spot.


This player doesn’t know anything about you other than that you are the only one who has open-raised this particular session. You can expect him to adjust to your “tightness” and play very differently against you than his stats might suggest.

However, he is still a looser player and isn’t likely to be as tight. You should not fold as much as the tight player, but you should still get it in with your top pairs. You can also try “bluff-catch” mode with your strongest hands, such as sets, overpairs and top pair kicker. You can then call them down.

You can fold your weak top pairings. It is the right play, based on your image, even though it may be painful against this type of opponent.

5. You have a strong hand but it is unlikely that you will raise your hand.

It is much more common to get involved with people who appear to be very strong but are actually very weak or losers. This leads to consistent bleeding.

Let’s suppose you have a strong hand, but not the nuts. You are beaten by your opponent. These situations can be very frustrating. It is possible to see your opponent’s perceived range and make it much easier.

Pre-Flop Versus 3-Bet

You open QQ in an early position and then get 3-bet from a guy who has only ever 3-bet someone once in 100 chances. You suspect he only 3-betting with QQ+. But you don’t know if he would with QQ. This sounds crazy, but you shouldn’t ever 4-bet in this spot. Only set mine if there is a good price.

4-bet Situations

A 4-bet is almost always the exact same situation as our 3-betting example. Let’s take a look at the hand history from AutomaticPoker.com.

No Limit Hold’em, $0.50BB (6 handed).

UTG ($47.10)MP ($72.10)
CO ($66.42), Opens 20% after cutoff
Button ($51.37.3% 3-bet)
SB ($92.59), 4% 3-betting TAG Regular
Hero (BB) ($12.12)

Preflop BB with Q♥, Q♠ is the Hero
2 folds CO bets $1.34; Button raises at $4.18; SB raises at $92.59 (All In); 3 folds
Wow, that’s some action. Here, the 4-bettors range is QQ+ and AK (At worst). We have 40% equity against this range. This is not good enough considering we have a small blind. This should be a snap fold even for a short stack. Crazy, no?

This is a extreme example, but you will have to make tough decisions with hands like 99, TT and AQ. It is not a talent to spot a marginal all in decision, but rather a skill that requires a good understanding of ranges. Let’s take a look at a common postflop scenario.

It’s a River Raise, and You Don’t Have the Nuts

River raises are almost always the nuts, while turn raises are often the nuts. This is something Blackrain told me many years ago. This is still true today in most poker games.

Learning about the ranges and relative strengths of your hands will help you determine when strong hands are second best. Kenny Rogers said that you must “know when you hold’em” and when you should fold. However, even if you realize that you are winning nothing on the river against aggression and that your opponent’s betting patterns screams monster it can sometimes be very difficult to find the fold button.

Consider all the times you called with one pair after being raised on the river. How many times have you actually won? Let’s be honest. Depending on your experience, it is possible to count the number of times you have seen it happen.

Very few players are able to bluff raise rivers. It is not something you should learn, as very few people will fold large hands for river raises. This is a classic example where you can beat the river, but call with a strong hand.

Example #1: Trips no good

No Limit Hold’em, $0.50BB (5 handed).

UTG ($50.81).
MP ($28.50).
Button ($30.60).
SB ($25.23).
Hero (BB) ($16.75)

Preflop Hero is BB with Q♠, 7♦
3 folds, SB calls $0.25, Hero checks
Small blind is a passive call station. Since he is not folding, it was futile to raise him pre-flop. Shoving seems absurd since he will likely limp-call a wide range.

Flop: ($1) Q♦, 3♠, 9♦(2 players)
SB bets $1, Hero calls $1 
We hit the flop against the station, and plan to walk three streets of value.

Turn: ($3) Q♥(2 players)
SB checks. Hero bets $2. SB calls $2
A good river card is that he will be more inclined to stay with a 3 or 9 in hand, and less likely to have a queen. There are many draws that make value betting here a must.

River: ($7) K♣(2 players)
SB checks, Hero places $3.50 bet, SB raises to $17.50 and Hero calls $9.75 (All In)
We try to extract value from the weaker pairs within his range, and boom, we get all-in check-raised. He would only raise full houses, trip queens, or a straight for value. It is unlikely that he has a queen. Then 33, 99, JT, and JT are the most obvious. A bluff raise is unlikely, as calling stations are passive players by their nature. This fold is obvious, considering all the factors and the fact that we are at best tying if he holds a queen. Like most players, I was married with my hand and called the raise.
Total Pot: $33.50
Rake: $1.65

SB 10♦, J♦ (straight, King high).
Hero had Q♠, 7♦ (three of a kind, Queens).
Outcome: SB won $31.85
Our opponent flopped an open ended straight flush draw and didn’t raise the flop, confirming our suspicion that he is passive. It is difficult to see trips as a bluff catcher with no flushes, but it was in this instance.

This is a critical juncture in the hand, and you should only call if you have a strong read on your opponent. Narrow the range based on his actions, and then stick to it.

Bad river calls can seem like a big leak, since you can lose a lot of money all at once. It’s not something that happens often. It’s a leak but it won’t really affect your long-term bottom line. It’s only one piece of the puzzle. If you do this wrong, you may be leaking in other areas.

6. You can tell your opponent

This is not the best option, but it can help you make fence decisions.

Live Tells

There are many ways to tell if your opponent has the upper hand in live games. These are three tells of strength:

  1. Your opponent is clearly trying to fake weakness. It’s best to get rid the 2nd and 3rd nuts.
  2. He is trying relax or appear relaxed. He might order drinks or have a conversation with another player. It is unlikely that someone would do this to bluff.
  3. Shaking hands- Although it might seem like a sign of weakness or insecurity, it is usually a sign that they are excited about their hand.

Online Tells

Online telephony is not something you might think of. You might be wrong. Based on my experience, there are a few key indicators that an opponent is strong.

  1. Tanking prior to raising- This is almost always a sign of the nuts. This was something I learned from my dad. He would raise his opponent whenever he had a strong hand. You can tell if someone is trying to act indecisive when they use up all of their timebank. Bravo buddy.
  2. The huge river overbet- If someone thinks they are winning, they will usually try to bet the minimum amount they think will succeed. Usually, a large overbet is not intended to “blow your hand off your hands.”

If you feel your call is marginal and your opponent gives you any of these tells, you may want to fold your hands quickly. Click To Tweet

When to Fold in Poker

It’s not always about the money you win, but also the money you don’t lose. If you follow the above, you’ll know when to fold in poker.