Though I have mentioned it in passing before, I wanted to discuss the concept of fold equity in more detail, as it is an important concept in no limit Texas holdem play. Fold equity is when your chip stack gets low in a tournament; it reaches a point that you don’t have enough chips to force an opponent into a difficult decision on whether to call your all in bet.
I was watching a friend of mine play in a tournament the other night and he had some unfortunate luck early and was getting a little low on chips. We were chatting between hands a little and he stated that he was going to have to make a move soon to keep the blinds from becoming too large in comparison to his chip stack. He was talking about surviving in the tournament, but I mentioned that he would also lose his fold equity.
A short time later he raised all in from late position and the blinds folded, was able to hit a few good hands and he was quickly back into the middle of the pack, chip wise.
The exact amount of chips in comparison to your opponents where you lose fold equity is not exact, but here are a few examples. If you have 500 chips and your opponent has 10,000, you don’t have any fold equity. He or she will not be hurt much if they lose to you, so they can call with a wide range of hands to take a chance to knock you out of the tournament. If they only had 2,000 chips, the range of hands they can call with is much narrower, because they will be risking 25% of their stack.
One thing that you must realize though is that the strongest hands will call you, regardless of your chip stack. Hands like AA KK QQ JJ and AK are going to call anyway. However, by being able to get weaker hands to fold and stealing the blinds for a few rounds, you can survive until you find a good enough hand to double up with.
You can use fold equity to your advantage though, even when you lose it. Usually when you land a big hand like AA or KK, you make a standard raise to keep an opponent in the hand for the chance to win a big pot. When your chips are low enough, you can just move all in and get a call with hands as weak as KJ and small pairs sometimes.
The next time you are in a tournament, try to determine at what amount fold equity would be lost as you move deeper into the tournament and use it to your advantage.
Until next week, good luck at the tables!