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Folding Good Hands

When a marriage lasts forever it can be one of life’s greatest joys. Two people love one another so much they commit to the other and share everything. Perhaps they have kids and start a family.

It is best, however, not to bring that practice to the poker table. Getting married to a poker hand too often leads to a big loss. Having the discipline to fold a good hand is a trait shared by many of the greatest poker players.

Phil Hellmuth is well known for excelling at that aspect of the game, and he has won 15 World Series of Poker titles, including the prestigious main event tournament in 1989.

It’s not a straightforward concept so don’t worry if you’re confused right now. It is critical to learn it, though, so here is a full explanation.

Testing your discipline

The complexity begins with the idea that it is not easy to make a big hand in Texas hold ‘em. When you do finally make a big hand, you get excited, and you want to make big bets.

Many times you are going to win when you have a good hand, but it is important to realize that almost no matter how good your hand is, it’s often possible for a better hand to be available. For example, if you make a queen-high flush you probably will be in a good spot, but you have to account for the fact that an opponent might have a king-high flush or an ace-high flush.

The worst thing you can do in that situation is to think about it as a queen-high flush in a vacuum. Everything is Texas hold ‘em is relative. If your opponent makes a big bet you shouldn’t think to yourself, “I have a big hand so I am going to win.”

You should think to yourself, “What hands beat me, and what is the likelihood my opponent has one of those hands?”

You might start another hand with pocket aces and flop a set, but if the community cards are A-6-7-8-9 then it is easier for your strong hand to get beat. All your opponent needs is a five or a ten to make a straight to beat your three-of-a-kind.

There will always be varying degrees of how easy it is to identify those situations, so it is important to consider all the hands that could beat you before you commit a lot of money to the pot.

Wait for a better spot

Winning big pots can make a session, but you usually cannot count on winning more than one or two big pots each time you sit down to play. That’s why losing big pots can break a session. When you lose a big pot you have a steeper hill to climb to get back to even or to make a profit.

You might make a big hand and be tempted to try to win a big pot, but if there is reason to believe your opponent has a better hand, it can be even more valuable to fold. It’s called waiting for a better spot.

If you have $200 in your stack and you lose all of it because you didn’t fold when you had a big hand, you might lose all of it. You can still play after that, but you’ll be $200 in the hole. If you win $200 in a hand after that you’ll be back to even, whereas if you had folded your good hand previously, you would instead have a $200 profit.

Sometimes folding good hands can keep you afloat until you finally find that one gigantic hand that you’re sure to win. If you do that, you’ll give yourself a better chance to finish as a winner in the long run.

And that’s the name of the game.