What is Fold Equity?
Fold equity is the value obtained by performing an aggressive action, which may result in your opponent putting down their hand and you winning the pot uncontested. When you play a hand, you have a certain amount of equity, and your opponents have a certain amount of equity as well. Equity is a fancy way of describing "your chances of winning."
For instance, if you are in a hand and you have an 80% chance of winning and your opponent has a 20% chance of winning, then your opponent has 20% equity in the pot. If you take an aggressive action by betting, raising, or re-raising that makes your opponent fold their hand, they give up that 20% that they were rightfully entitled to, had all five cards come out and you had gone to showdown.
In other words, if you were all-in at this point in the hand, you would realize the true equity of your hand, and your opponent would realize the true equity of theirs—you are 80%, and they are 20%. Therefore, you would win four out of five, and your opponent would win one out of five. However, when you take an aggressive that makes your opponent fold, they give up that 20% and you gain it.
Unlike pot equity, fold equity does not have a specific dollar value.
How Important is Fold Equity?
Fold equity is the most powerful weapon in poker!
Semi-Bluffing: Betting with a draw to get an extra way of win pots
When it comes to semi-bluffing betting, having fold equity is critical when you have a draw. It's a big part of how you might have won the hand. That is why, as an aggressive player, you must consider fold equity and use it to your advantage as much as possible. However, if you only need to hit your draw, your opponent can fold.
Bluffing is, by definition, a successful bluff without the fold equity. That means your opponent folds, and you should consider how probable it is that "I'm going to get my opponent to fold."
Factors Affecting Fold Equity
If you're up against a player who just doesn't like folding and is going to be calling station, it's probably not a good idea to bluff as much. And if you've been particularly active at the table, your bluffs are less likely to succeed because you'll have less fold equity due to the picture the other players have of you.
The board texture is a component that impacts fold equity just as much as opponent type. If the board is relatively wet, you'll have less fold equity because there's simply more out there for the opposing player to have.
If you bet one chip into a 25 million dollar pot, even if the person has a four high, they will almost certainly call you. However, if you give the person poor pot odds, you are much more likely to get that fold. That doesn't mean you should always maximize it, but it's something to keep in mind.
Because of the perceived strength of your hand range, a raise from early position will generate more fold equity than a button raise. A late position raise may be interpreted as stealing the blinds.
Number of Opponents
Simply put, the more people you have in your hand, the less fold equity you have. As the number of players in the pot increases, the chances of someone calling or raising increase. This is most commonly applied to raising limpers before the flop and continuation betting after the flop. You may be itching to bluff, but keep in mind that your chances of success will decrease as the number of players increases.
Fold Equity in Action
Here is an example of fold equity.
And here we have a nine four suited, who will raise even in this situation. We're raising due to fold equity. When our opponent doesn't want him to fold a lot of the time, he can't fold preflop. As a result, this type of play will be based on fold equity.
If we knew the player was always calling, we might play this hand differently, even just based on the preflop action. We could fold or limp, but we play this hand because we have fold equity. We c-bet our open-ended straight draw, and our opponent replied with a check raise. This particular spot has a pot close to 500 and a fill in stack, so the effective stack is just a bit more than two times.
Because your opponent may be semi-bluffing themself, we should semi-bluff the possibly semi-bluffer. Go ahead and shove, we can optimize our fold equity by just shoving, and we could clearly hit our hand as well. We may also get a comparable hand to fold or a nine with a better kicker. It'll be difficult for that person to call. And that is exactly what it does here. That will be a profitable call, but we will most likely need to hit our draw. And now we have another chance to win by convincing our opponent to fold, and it appears that we have effectively unleashed the most powerful weapon!