Folding Is Boring and Boring Is Winning

“You might be a losing player if… your hatred of boring poker causes you to play too many hands.”

-Sky, channeling his inner Jeff Foxworthy

In last week’s podcast episode #343: Slow Is Smart and Smart Is Winning, I took an old sniper motto and applied it to poker.

This week, I’m giving it another slant and coming up with a new poker motto:

Folding is boring and boring is winning.

Just imagine if you were able to give yourself a long-term unbeatable mathematical edge against most of your opponents. And let me tell you, folding more often preflop is how you’re going to give yourself that unbeatable edge.

Listen to this podcast episode:

Last week, I discussed a common downfall for many poker players: acting too quickly without considering as much information as possible.

Another Common Downfall for Poker Players

Well, another downfall that many of my students have is the desire to play a lot of hand and see a lot of flops.

Who is your #1 target at the table? It’s the player that plays too many hands, right?

Maybe they can’t help but call preflop with any pretty hand. Maybe they open-raise too much or 3bet too many hands. And maybe they just can’t find a fold post-flop.

This idea of folding is winning is NOT sexy, but it’s the truth: Folding is boring and boring is winning.

When I started playing, I loved seeing flops and trying to hit hands. I called a ton with anything suited and connected in some way, with the goal of hitting straights and flushes, and 2 pair and sets. I didn’t even think about my opponent’s range of hands, I just wanted to play poker, see flops and make big hands.

This is what caused me to lose for a long time until I started studying! I learned that the quickest way to improve your results was to play less hands than they do. Your tighter ranges have a mathematical advantage over the loose marks at the table.

And how do you play tighter ranges than your opponents? You fold more than they do.



Micro Stakes Winners

Most micro stakes winners VPIP (voluntarily put money in the pot) less than 25% (often just 15% or 18%). What does that mean?

If winners are voluntarily playing 25% of the time, that means they are voluntarily folding the other 75% of the time. Sounds quite boring.

A lot of the losingest players VPIP at 30%, 35%, 40% or greater.

Take Action with Flopzilla Pro

Open up Flopzilla Pro and use the Multi-player Mode. Enter in a 25% range (You don’t even have to give it any thought. Just move the range slider to 25% and use the default Flopzilla range). And then, put this up against a 26% range.

What’s the equity difference between these two ranges?

Not really much (50.6% rounded versus 49.4%). But the player that folds more preflop has the advantage.

Now, put the 25% against a much looser 43% VPIP:

Wow, 55% equity vs 45%! That’s a huge difference. Vegas was built on a 1% house edge, you have 10% here!

Watch me do this work with Flopzilla Pro and click along with me:

Start Playing Tighter with Preflop Ranges

If you use my KISS Cash Game ranges, you’ll naturally have to tighten up. These ranges limit your calling in every position, and they have you raising and 3betting more as position gets later.

In ThePokerForge.com, there are videos dedicated to helping you play profitably with the KISS Cash Game Ranges. The videos can be found within the Quick Wins section and the Preflop Hand Selection section.

Following the KISS ranges, your total VPIP (across all positions) will be around 15%. What equity advantage do you have over the 26% and the 43% VPIP’ers?

15% versus 26%:

A lovely 10% edge.

15% versus 43%:

An even lovelier 18% edge.

You can see how playing tighter ranges than all of your opponents do is going to lead you to gold on your poker journey.

Actual Range versus Range Scenario

You might be saying, “Sky, when we play poker it’s not my VPIP versus their VPIP. I raise, they call. I raise, they 3bet, I call. There are different situations so this VPIP versus VPIP stuff isn’t applicable.”

Two things to that:

  1. Actually, this VPIP versus VPIP idea is applicable and useful because your general tendency of folding a lot and playing less hands means you’ve got stronger ranges in most situations than they do.
  2. Let’s look at an actual situation.
    1. If you open-raise 15% in the MP, the BTN player with a VPIP of 43% might defend his BB with a 50% range.
    2. What kind of equity advantage does your 15% RFI range have over a 50% blind defender?
    3. 62% versus 38%, that’s a 24% preflop advantage.
    4. In the long run, this much looser player is giving you all his chips.
15% raise first in range versus a 50% BB defender.

You Are Your Biggest Enemy

You might be thinking right now, “Sky, I can’t fold that much. That’s too boring and I don’t want to be a nit!”

And you’re right.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.” -Henry Ford (and Stewie from The Family Guy)

You are your own worst enemy and your inability to fold is what’s causing a lot of your losses.

I have a student 1-on-1 student and in a recent coaching session, I found 6 instances of him limping and then calling a raise.

We’ve discussed this, he knows not to do it.

But, his own bad habits that he developed from years of playing LIVE and using the same style online made him revert to this costly habit 6 times in the past 3,000 hands.

He knows this is an issue, so he has to work to break this habit of limping. He’s his own biggest enemy right now.

3 Tips to Break Calling Habits

For most players who VPIP too often, it’s calling and limping that are the major causes.

Tip #1: Realize that calling is not as good as raising

Go into your PokerTracker 4 database and filter for these 5 preflop actions.

  1. Raising First In
  2. Preflop 3betting
  3. Limping
  4. Calling the 2bet
  5. Raising then calling the 3bet

Out of these 5 filters, it’s very likely you are making money with the first two, the aggressive plays. And you’re likely losing money with the last 3, the calling plays.

I’ve seen hundreds of databases from students and this is normally the case: Winning when raising and losing when calling.

Let this realization help you to find more preflop folds. Go ahead and keep raising the way you are, but the first step to folding more is to call less.

Tip #2: Use ranges

I discussed this above, but get and use my KISS Cash Game Ranges. Just start using them. They’re going to have you calling less and raising and 3betting more.

Tip #3: Be okay with being a nit

Too many students come to me and they say things like:

  • “I can’t fold here, that’s too nitty.”
  • “I never fold this hand, there’s too much potential here.”
  • “If I fold now, I’m giving up and they’ll think I’m a pushover.”

Here’s the thing, you control your attitude towards folding.

Don’t choose to feel like a nit when folding. Instead, be fine with folding because you know that folding is winning poker. It puts you in a better position to win more chips from looser opponents.

The best way to be profitable at micro stakes games online is to fold more to give you that long-run mathematical edge.

One of the great things about folding is that your opponents don’t know what you had. You opened with AJ and made a tight laydown versus a 3bet. They don’t know you had AJ. For all they know, you were stealing with T7s. This nitty feeling you have is all in your head, and because it’s all in your own head, you can control the narrative.

Better narrative to tell yourself: “I’m folding here because it’s the best play and this sets me up for future success, while avoiding losses right now.”

Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:

Start folding more. I gave you three tips to help you do so. Take action on them one at a time to train yourself to fold and avoid bad situations and losses.

  1. Realize that calling is not as good as raising
  2. Use ranges
  3. Be okay with being a nit

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

These radical poker peeps donated an amount of their choice for my free Poker Programs:

Sky Matsuhashi