Guest Blog Post: Making Big Folds and Hero Calls by Evan Jarvis

By coach, Evan Jarvis.

Knowing when to fold is a nuance that escapes beginners, especially when they place their energy and focus on their hand instead of trying to read their opponents. If you want to excel as a player, you’ll need to know when to laydown a hand and when to make a heroic call. Practice reading hands and trusting your instincts, and soon enough, you’ll be playing like a pro.

Knowing When To Hold’em And When To Fold’em

If you want to improve your decision making, get to know the way your opponents play. Learn to read your opponents and how to act using the insight you’ve collected. 

Pay Attention To The Action, Even When You’ve Folded

Whether you have cards or not, pay attention to the session in progress. Watch what your opponents are doing and why they do it.

  1. Take Notes On Uncharacteristic Actions

If you see something weird, jot it down. Knowing a player’s idiosyncrasies is advantageous to you, should they pull that move again, you’ll be ready.

  • Look For Inconsistent Actions (don’t bet, lead outs)

Not to be confused with uncharacteristic actions, inconsistent actions are ones that disrupt the natural flow of the hand, like when the river leads out. These actions are telling about your opponent’s hand. Watch out for when they do something out of the ordinary and try to figure out what happened.

  • When Things ‘don’t make sense’ or ‘don’t add up’ – Call

If your spidey-senses are tingling over your opponent’s last action, and you can’t figure out a real hand that could justify it, he’s bluffing there probably isn’t one.

Absolute vs. Relative Hand Strength

  • Absolute Hand Strength: what’s in your hand.
  • Relative Hand Strength: your hand strength relative to your opponent’s hand strength.

Absolute hand strength is just cool terminology; it offers no help to your game the way relative hand strength does. It doesn’t matter what’s in your hand; all that matters is having a better hand than your opposition. Some players have rules about which hands they can’t fold, like a flush but this doesn’t matter if your opponent is a tight player and only actions big flushes. This rule will stagnate your game so be flexible and make an effort to read your opposition.

It Takes Skill To Laydown A Strong Hand

Here are some starter questions to help you decide how much action to give a hand or when to call it quits.

  • Is your opponent aggressive or passive, weak or reckless?

If your opponent is aggressive or reckless and involved in all the action, call him down with a top pair, top kicker most likely, if he’s just betting. If you’re up against someone passive or weak that is selective with what they play and how much they bet; figure out his standards. What hands is he willing to play and how much is he willing to spend; so you can gauge your relative hand strength.

  • How many bets went in preflop?

The more money that enters the pot preflop, the less strict you can be with which hands to action. The bigger the pot, the better your pot odds and the lighter your requirements for stacking off or calling down. You also aren’t likely to experience sneaky hands.

  • How many players saw the flop?

The more players that saw the flop, the more cards that are in play and the stronger the likelihood someone’s connected with the board. Exact more caution in 5-way play over heads-up.

  • How likely are hands like 2 pair, sets, straights, flushes?

How closely connected or scattered are the cards on the board? People are more apt to play cards closer in rank, so proceed with caution if the flop cards are closely connected. A scattered or low board is not as actionable for players so play more daring hands.

  • How many bets have/are likely to go into the pot?

Decide early on if you’re going to the end with your opponent – based on their actions. C-bets aren’t worrying, but raises are more indicative of how much action they intend on putting into the pot.

  • What are your pot odds?

Pot odds matter a lot on the river. The less your opponents bet, the less often you have to show the best hand to be making a profitable call. E.g., a half pot bet is 3-1 on your money, so you need to be right 25% of the time. If you don’t want to get stumped on the river, plan ahead using the previous pointers.

Laydowns And Hero Calls

Humans are curious by nature; we want information. This need for information can work against you when you’ve deduced what’s in your opponent’s hand and you call their extra-large river bet just so you can confirm your suspicions. Learn to trust your instincts; if you feel beat, you probably are. Exercise self-control and fold. If you can do this, you’re already ahead of most players who can’t resist the urge to play on, and consequently, this is where a lot of money is made.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed it, please share it with your friends and let Evan know. If you want to continue working on your poker skills, be sure to sign up for your free 7-day trial to our interactive training site,

Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading!