Adam Levy
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Gotta Know When to Fold 'Em

Recently, I chopped a live tourney in Florida and I wanted to discuss one hand in particular. It’s a good hand to discuss because it demonstrates how to systematically determine you are beat while illustrating the importance of balanced ranges. While being balanced is less important in tournaments than cash, it is generally valuable to incorporate bluffs in your ranges.

Here’s the hand: Four handed at the final table I raised to 85k at 20k/40k with J8o on the button and the small blind and big blind both come along. I started the hand with 2.8 million, the small blind with 3.0 million, and the big blind also with 2.8. The flop comes JJ6 rainbow. Check, check, and I bet 95k. The small blind makes it 215k to go and the big blind quickly folds. I call and the turn brings the 7s (2nd spade) and small blind bets 350k into 700k. I call, not enjoying my spot but finding it extremely hard to fold trips on the turn. The river brings a 5 of clubs and small blind bets 650k. After a few seconds, I quickly fold my Jack face up with noticeable frustration. If I’m going to have to fold trips, I’m going to get some satisfaction from my opponent’s face by folding face up. Needless to say, I was very confident in my fold.

So why was I so confident? I can break it down for you. First off, the player. He rarely 3-bet and called a ton preflop but he understood a decent amount postflop. After that I figured his preflop flatting range here would include 66 and J7s+ as he really enjoyed seeing flops. Standard continuation bet and he check-raises. The check-raise is pretty bad with everything in his range except for maybe 66 and possibly some random bluffs. With another player to act, being out of position deepstacked, and knowing there is a short stack with 10 bbs, I thought it was unlikely he was bluffing. He continues by betting half pot on the turn and I really do not like my spot. Perhaps I should simply fold the turn as it is possible he has no bluffs in his range here and I am losing to every value hand. However, making a fold here is difficult as it is very hard for me to know this range definitively after playing with someone for only a few hours. Once the 5c river arrives and he bets without much thought, that basically shored up any doubt of him bluffing and I quickly folded.

When going through the entire hand it is important to remember to combine preflop ranges with postflop ranges. It can be very easy to just tell yourself, well maybe he has an overpair here when in reality he 3-bets those hands every time and never flats them.

One thing I have struggled with over the years in live poker is making big laydowns. Every hand is just as much a battle against yourself as it is against your opponent. Even physically releasing your cards from your grip when making a big fold can be tough. You have to be confident with yourself, your read, and your thought processes. On top of all this, it’s important to realize that you will make mistakes and that happens from time to time.

3:59 AM - 25 Mar 2014: "I chopped it for $95k heads up. He had more chips so he gets the trophy. Screw it, I'm taking the damn trophy pic."


Another realization from this hand is actual hand strength versus relative hand strength. Actual hand strength meaning we have trips with an eight kicker. Relative hand strength is acknowledging we have trips but that there are plenty other hands within his range that beat us. Knowing this, our hand is not nearly as strong as it seems due to our opponent’s strong range. When a situation arises in which your relative hand strength is much weaker than your actual hand strength, it is important to avoid saying to yourself, “but how can I fold? I have trips.” This is not a logical thought, but an emotional attachment to your hand and it is necessary to avoid this thought process in order to make big laydowns.



Good article, never easy to fold trips. "This is not a logical thought, but an emotional attachment to your hand and it is necessary to avoid this thought process in order to make big laydowns. " Sure and I think u've said it very well, "the emotional attachment" to a poker hand is one of our ennemy. I've learnt it with practice (and readings and discussions) but I see that frequently at poker tables... 

Always a pleasure to read articles from pro-players about a particular hand in live mtt !

And GG for your performance in that tournament ! (one more  )


thx cool article, gg for last perf and nice goofy face on last pic lol :)

Thanks, great technical article !!!

Looks like Poker is nearly as complex as MTG ahah ;). We were Cubing yesterday with @Pedro Canali and we were talking about the last time we played with you in Monaco. Good memories ;).

Can't wait the WSOP to play MTG again  :)