BRING BACK THE FOLD!January 28, 2019
Back when online poker was king, it was really easy for an aggressive player to win big. The average player simply folded WAY too often. I remember back in 2009, my roommate (a non-gambler) would sit behind me while I played and basically have a panic attack every time I raised with nothing.
‘I have nothing, I can’t win unless I bet,’ I would say as he covered his eyes.
While that’s a reasonable approach in certain situations, it’s not very sophisticated. But it didn’t matter back then. Everyone just folded. It was possible to become a winning player simply by being a crazy gambler (which I definitely was). In certain situations, you almost didn’t even need to look at your cards. Live games were even easier. I remember once winning a 100+ player daily tournament at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas without ever making a hand stronger than top pair.
I can honestly say that I am infinitely better at Texas hold’em than I was in 2009. There is really no comparison between my understanding of the game then and my understanding of the game now. And yet, my current results are nowhere near where they were in those days.
The same can be said for a number of high stakes pros. Patrik Antonius, the highest earning online poker player of all time (estimated lifetime online earnings around $19million) actually quit online poker in 2015 claiming that he couldn’t make a profit in the cash games anymore. Tom ‘Durrr’ Dwan, another poker multi-millionaire claims that he was actually a bad player back then despite winning millions.
There are many factors which have made the games more difficult. The growing sophistication of tracking software, the removal of American players from the player field as well as the public’s general increase in knowledge about the game have all been huge factors. People learned not to fold so much, and therefore blind aggression isn’t enough to win anymore. This is the reason why so many ‘pros’ from the early days of the poker boom are not ‘pros’ anymore. Many of them were simply gamblers who were in the right place at the right time, playing a game that became a worldwide sensation almost overnight despite the fact that few people knew how to play well.
The masses started to read poker books and for years every single piece of poker strategy advice pushed the mantra of constant aggression. So they learned not to trust you when you bet and began to call more often. And a player who calls too often is much more difficult to beat than a player who folds too often, even if they have no idea what they are doing. It’s simple, against players who call too often, you actually need to have the best hand from time to time.
So now, in the days of ‘call-call-call’ the fold has become an even more important weapon. Smart opponents will make bets and raises designed to take advantage of this over-calling trend. They are expecting you to call with marginal hands. And of course, in poker we always want to defy the expectations of our opponent. The trend now is that when you make a continuation bet, nobody believes you.
For recreational players, this new trend is actually a good thing. It means you can play tight and simply wait for good cards. There is a much stronger chance of getting value out of your hands in 2016 than in 2009. Back then, when people were folding too much, you couldn’t just sit around and wait for pocket aces. When they finally came, nobody would give you any action. These days nobody folds on the flop. Bottom pair? Cool. King-high no draw? Shut up and take my money.
I’m not telling you to get pushed around and fold every time your opponent raises and you don’t have the nuts. I’m simply saying that when you’re stuck on a decision and debating between a fold or a call, maybe lean towards the fold a little more often.
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