Recently, a hand came up during my Twitch stream where I defended the big blind with 87 against an aggressive opener in early position. I had about 20 big blinds and villain had me covered by a small amount. The flop came 963, I checked, and villain put in a half pot continuation bet. Many viewers said that I should check shove this spot in order to maximize my fold equity. This statement made me think about what that expression even means. Does maximizing my fold equity mean the same thing as shoving? Does it mean giving my opponent the worst possible price on a call? I do not think that these are necessarily true. In my opinion, maximizing my fold equity simply means taking the action that is most likely to cause my opponent to fold. In this hand, I had several options that I thought did a better job of this than simply going all-in.
Preflop Fold Equity
I did not consider it in this hand, but sometimes I try to maximize my fold equity preflop in situations like this. I was facing an aggressive player who opened about 20% of hands from early position. This includes hands like any pair, any suited ace, any suited Broadway, the bigger suited connectors and one gappers, and a few unsuited hands like ATo+, KJo+, QJo. That is a pretty wide range and villain would have a tough time defending it to a shove. I imagine he would only call with something like 77+, ATs+, AJo+ which represents about 40% of his opening range. This means that he will fold to this 60% of the time, but I am convinced that a different line besides shoving may give us even more fold equity.
For instance, what if we decide to three-bet to 6 big blinds from our 20 big blind stack in this spot? Villain would likely perceived this to be a much stronger range as we would have just shoved with our most vulnerable value hands like medium pairs and AQo. Also, we are more likely to have hands like KK+ when we play it this way than when we just shove. This means that this line is uncapped where as a shove isn’t. The uncapped three-bet is a stronger line than the capped shove, which may cause villain to fold a few more hands in his defending range like AJo, ATs, and 77 for example. This increases his folding percentage from 60% to 68%, which is a roughly 13% improvement in fold equity over just shoving.
This would be my preferred line with hands like A6o that don’t play well postflop and contain a blocker to a lot of the hands in villain’s defending range. In this hand, I felt like I could do even better by playing my 87 post flop.
Flop Fold Equity
As stated, I decided to just call with my 87 and the flop came 963. Villain made a continuation bet and many of my Twitch viewers thought this would be a good time to maximize my fold equity with a shove. I disagreed for a couple of reasons. First, check shoving this board looks exactly like a draw or maybe a 9 that is afraid of getting outdrawn. I don’t have a ton of nines in my range so I expect villain to read my shoving range as unbalanced with too many draws and play accordingly. He would call with most pairs, bigger draws, and possibly even Ace-high. That’s the vast majority of his opening range which means that a shove here would have very little fold equity. Instead, I decided to just call the flop to see if I could generate some fold equity on the turn.
Turn Fold Equity
At this point, there were around 11 big blinds in the pot and I had about 15 big blinds behind. The turn card was the 2. I decided to lead the turn which I believe maximizes my fold equity for several reasons. First, it gives me a few more credible value hands to represent like a straight with 54s and bottom two with 32s. This makes it harder for villain to call with hands like Ace-high. Secondly, villain may fold any bigger draws he had on the flop now that they have half as much equity with only one card to come. I still think I get called by most of the pairs, but villain may even find a hero fold with some of the worst ones if he discounts draws from my range given that I did not raise the flop. I figured a turn lead for two thirds of my remaining stack would look less like a bluff than a flop check shove and would be less likely to get called by the weaker parts of villain’s range that would have called a flop shove. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. I bet 5 big blinds and villain called.
River Fold Equity
Now, the pot was 21 big blinds and I had 10 big blinds behind. The river brought the beautiful 5. This was a great card because it gave me the nuts and villain most likely had a value hand that would not see it coming. People are generally so focused on the easy to see flush when it comes in that they often times miss the straights. For this reason, my plan was to bluff the flush cards and I expected to get full value from the non-flush straight cards like this one. I shoved the rest of my stack, but villain somehow found a fold on the river. This makes me think that I had even more fold equity with this line than I thought. I cannot think of many hands he would play this way, but I imagine all of them would have called a flop check shove to have me in pretty bad shape until the river. It would have been nice to get the river value bet called, but I'm fine with getting a fold when I have 100% equity on the river as opposed to getting a call when I have significantly less than 50% equity on the flop when called.