Take advantage of fold equity
As a tournament reporter, I have observed hundreds of thousands of poker hands. Most are mundane — the sort of hands I’ve seen play out over and over. However, every so often I’ll bear witness to a hand that sticks out, not necessarily because it defies the odds but because it imparts a valuable poker lesson.
Case in point: this hand from the 2018 Mid-States Poker Tour Grand Falls $1,100 Main Event, a tournament that drew 226 entries. The hand took place in Level 14, when Josh Skogen limped under the gun and Gary Germann raised to 7,000 next to act. World Series of Poker bracelet winner Eric Rodawig called from the hijack seat, as did Demetrios Sengos from the cutoff.
Skogen called the raise and then led out for 15,000 on the 7c Jc 2s flop. Germann and Sengos called, and Rodawig folded.
On the Ks turn, Skogen checked, and then Germann immediately moved all in for 62,300. Sengos folded what he later claimed was the nut flush draw. Skogen, sitting on a stack of 90,000, called with 10c 9c for a straight flush draw. Germann tabled Qs Js for top pair with a flush draw.
The Kc river gave Skogen a winning flush, and Germann hit the rail.
On its face, this hand seems fairly standard, but a closer examination suggests otherwise. For example, notice that Skogen limped under the gun with suited connectors. This is rather unorthodox, as most players prefer to raise, which gives them fold equity and strengthens their perceived range.
By limping, Skogen gave up his fold equity and did not define his range, meaning his opponents likely did not put him on a strong hand.
Likewise, Skogen missed an opportunity to capitalize on fold equity on the turn. Instead of moving all in, which might have inspired his two opponents to fold and allow him to pick up the pot without making his hand, Skogen checked and put himself in a reactionary position. He was no longer controlling the action and would soon be reacting to Germann’s all-in shove.
As it happened, Skogen was getting a good price to call off most of his stack, assuming all of his outs were live. That’s a big assumption though, as it was possible that Germann had a better flush draw.
By giving up his fold equity, Skogen put himself in a precarious situation. He called off most of his stack with one card to come, and fortunately for him, he got there. He took a rocky route to a good result, but in this hand, there were smoother paths to victory.
The lesson to be learned here is that when you have fold equity, take advantage of it.