Why is it so hard to fold?

Over the past few days I’ve been blessed with being able to sit and see from the perspective of both the dealer and the player. It’s definitely nice to get the chance to play cards once in a while. While I was playing the other night it occurred to me that even after the thousands of hands that I’ve seen outcomes for, I still sit and wonder if my luck is sitting with me… Will I get lucky and flop the set? Will I complete the straight on the river? Or will I be smart enough to fold and not even worry about it? This is what brings me to my topic today… Why is it so hard to fold?

To start I guess you have to figure out why you are considering playing the hand in the first place. Do I have good enough cards to see a flop? Do I have the right cards to raise with? Do I even know what I’m doing with the position I’m in at the table? So first and foremost, this is a good place to start talking about pre-flop hand values.

Here is a chart that everyone should be familiar with! This shows you where you stand with the 2 cards you’re holding based on every position at the table!

Hand Ranking

Now before I go on, I guess this is a good place to talk about everyone’s “Favorite hands”… Let me make this statement, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in poker is having/playing a favorite hand. To many times I have heard “This is my favorite hand, I have to play it!” Now I understand that everyone has that one hand that they will always remember, and they love to talk about. As I’ve said before, poker at its heart is a game, and games are designed to be fun. I mean, let’s be honest, having a favorite hand is a conversation starter. Everyone loves telling the stories of why it’s their favorite hand. Having a favorite hand is fun! But that doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to play…

Now as a player, I’ll admit it. I have a few storied hands that I like to talk about. Q-7 for instance, this hand is commonly known as “The Computer Hand.” Why is it known as that you ask?  Well, years ago someone did a computer simulation of Texas Hold ’em starting hands and how they fared when played to the river. When analysis was complete Q-7 was in the middle meaning 50% of the starting hands beat Q-7 and 50% of the starting hands lost to it. Thus, it’s the 50/50 hand! I’m a huge fan of 50/50 odds, making these 2 cards easy for me to call with in a hand that has not been raised… Notice where Q-7 falls on the above chart? It’s in the fold zone… Even I’m human…

On to my next point of emphasis, just because a hand has a name doesn’t mean it’s a good hand to play. Here are some examples of hands that have names:

  • Dolly Parton: 9-5 (named for the movie 9 to 5)
  • San Francisco Busboy: Q-3 (Queen with a tray)
  • Jackson 5: J-5 (self explanatory)
  • The Moneymaker: 5-4 (the hand he won the 2003 WSOP Main Even with)
  • The Doyle Brunson: 10-2 (he won the 1976 and 1977 WSOP Main Evens with this hand. Both times his intentions were to bluff, but ended up hitting full houses on the river… He also won a major tournament with 10-3 but that’s another story… Funny thing is that he hates that this hand has been dubbed with his name…)

When I hear a player complain “I only played it because it was Doyle Brunson’s hand,” I chuckle a bit knowing what you’re really saying is “you like playing bad cards…” Only “The Moneymaker” even remotely falls into a callable situation… The other 4 I’ve listed are all in the fold zone…

So now we come to it… Why is it so hard to fold? The truth of the matter is folding is the hardest skill to learn in poker… This statement in itself may be profound to some, and absolutely confusing to others. Now I’m not talking about the pre-flop 7-2, 8-3, 10-3, 9-4 or any of the other hands that most people have a preconceived notion are terrible starting hands…. What I’m talking about are the hands that start out great then the flop comes out and you’ve got no part of it. For example, you are sitting at a 9 handed table and you get dealt Jc-10c, and you were fortunate enough that no one raised and you called for the minimum. The Flop comes out Kc-Kh-7d. Someone bets 3x the big blind. Now most people have already made the decision to fold here. The fact of the matter is the only way you can win this pot is if you get lucky, and get 2 running cards. The only improvements you have are hitting 2 of the last 3 J’s left in the deck, hitting 3 of the last 10’s left in the deck, running Q + 9, or Q + A. or 2 of the last 10 Clubs in the deck. So if you’ve followed along and have done the math 18 cards are gone already from the hands that were dealt. There is 1 burn card and 3 cards already on the board. 22 cards are already accounted for out of 52. You would have to assume that in those 9 hands 6-10 of the cards you need are already accounted for. So of the last 30 cards you need to hit 2 in a row to even have a hope at winning. You need to get Lucky! The odds aren’t in your favor… but you call anyway. Essentially you have just donated to the person who is representing one of the last 2 kings… So  the turn comes out 2d… at this point please fold… it’s never good to donate…

I think one of the biggest misconceptions in the game of Texas Hold’em is that you can’t win without getting lucky. Now don’t get me wrong here, getting lucky along the way is helpful, but don’t bank on it winning you a tournament. I had an interesting conversation with a poker pro a while back, and his comment was “I want you to get lucky!” How crazy is that!? Now if you really think about what he’s saying here, he wants you to get lucky a few times so that when you are in dire straits you can call upon your luck and it will fail you. Fun fact here: hitting that 1 outer on the river only happens 1 out of 55,000 hands… The odds of it happening to you aren’t in your favor…

Some of the best players in the game have found a way to use your luck against you. It’s called BETTING! Once they’ve figured out that you are the “call station” at the table they will nickel and dime you till you haven’t got a nickel to your name… My point here is you shouldn’t bank on your luck coming to save you every time… Wait for quality hands and use the skills you have versus letting your luck get you into trouble.

We as humans have a flaw… A saying from my childhood comes to mind and fits the bill perfectly. Curiosity killed the cat! This may be one of the hardest things to overcome, curiosity… We always want to see cards… The “what if” seem to get the best of us in poker. We always wonder, what if I stayed in that hand. Would my cards have come? Could he be bluffing? This is in my opinion why it’s so hard to fold… With all the possibilities we let our curiosity get the best of us… The keys to overcoming the curiosity, is knowing where your hand stands before you let it get this far… Referring back to the chart, if your hand doesn’t fall in the red or at least the yellow, you’re probably in good shape to get out of the hand long before your curiosity takes over…

To sum all this up, get familiar with where your hand sits pre-flop… Don’t allow yourself to fall into a pattern where your counting on getting lucky… Curiosity is the downfall of all players… Learn to fold earlier and you will go along way with this game!

I hope I’ve helped some here! Good luck and may many more pot be pushed your way!

One thought on “Why is it so hard to fold?

  1. Ella Mathews (ex-Crazy Stork Lady)

    So true about curiosity. My worst habit (and I only play occasionally and for fun) used to be folding stuff I knew I needed to fold and then insisting on watching the flop and rather than concentrate on others’ play, think about what I would have hit. Utter stupidity.


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