The Importance of Fold Equity in SNGs

Sit and go players have to deal with rising blinds and shrinking stacks. It’s just the nature of the game.

However, we don’t always have cards to play. Yet we still need to steal the blinds, resteal and shove all in to maintain our stack, and build it up for the bubble and final table. Otherwise we’d dwindle down to nothing and blind out of the tournament.

That’s not going to happen to me, or any other good sit and go player. We don’t blind out. We do everything in our power to stay alive in the tournament.

One of the things we rely on to get that job done is fold equity.

What is Fold Equity?

Fold equity is how often you think your opponents are going to fold. It’s that simple.

Some players quantify fold equity, using fractions or percentages. They do that so they can run some math and figure out how profitable a play may be.

I don’t think that’s necessary and a tad overkill, at least for the purpose of this article. All you need to worry about for now, is what fold equity is, why it’s important and where to find it.

Why is Fold Equity Important to Tournament Players?

Fold equity is important because we won’t always have hands to play. However, the blinds will rise regardless, and if we don’t make moves to try to build our stack, we’ll have a difficult time making a deep run, let alone reaching the final table.

More specifically, we want fold equity whenever we steal the blinds, continuation bet the flop (especially in tournaments), shove with 10 big blinds or less and resteal. We want players to fold the majority of the time because whenever we’re called, we’re either running a race with thin margins, or have to make another (awkward) decision. Neither is very good in a tournament. We want to avoid flips and spewing chips whenever possible.

Where You Have Fold Equity

The concept of fold equity is easy enough to understand. However, knowing when and where you have fold equity isn’t always. So here are some spots where you’ll (usually) have fold equity.

Medium Sized Stacks – A medium size stack will be relative to the blinds. For example, if the blinds are 100/200, a medium sized stack could be 3-4,000, maybe a little more. The reason why you have fold equity against these stacks is because they’re in the sweet spot. They don’t have so many chips that they can splash around, but they’re not so short that they have to play push/fold poker.

Bubble – You have fold equity here for a couple of reasons. One, good sit and go players know that they can’t call (all-ins) light here. Two, you have equity against players who are so close to cashing they can taste it, and would rather sit on their stack and squeeze into the money than risk busting.

Dry Flops – A dry flop would be something like A-7-2 rainbow. It hardly hits anyone’s range, so a continuation bet induces folds (more often than not).

Raising into Shorter Stacks – Counterintuitive, I know. But you have fold equity here from the medium and deep stack players because it looks like you are willing to flip your hand over (and race). I recommend that you do have a hand you’re willing to race with in case you’re called. It doesn’t have to be that strong of a hand, though. Something like 98s is fine because you’ll have two live cards.

Paired Flops – Paired flops have fold equity for the same reason as dry flops. They either hit someone’s hand very hard, or not at all. For example, how likely is it that K-K-3 hit your opponent’s range?

Payout Increases – If you’re in a larger sit and go or tournament, there will be multiple payouts. Sometimes more than 10. Each one might increase by 20-30% which makes a big difference in your ROI. So each jump will act as a tiny bubble. You can take advantage of this by targeting just about anyone, even the small stack, as they’ll think that if they can wait long enough they’ll move up in the money.

Tight Players – Tight players play fewer hands (fold more often). So targeting them whenever you raise or c-bet is a good idea. You’ll usually know when you don’t have fold equity versus them (they’re raise and re-raise their good hands).

Where You Don’t Have Fold Equity

There are times where you won’t have fold equity, too. These spots or players are just as important to look for because a mistake here can cost you chips. Chips you may not have.

Against Loose Players – The opposite of tight players. These guys want to play hands, call bets and all-in shoves. So you don’t want to c-bet, steal or go all in, unless it’s for value or you have absolutely no choice and you’re ahead of their range more often than not.

You Have a Loose / Maniac Image – I didn’t mention this above, but another spot where you have fold equity is when you haven’t played a hand for awhile. The opposite is also true — you’re more likely to be called when you’ve been raising and shoving seemingly every hand. Like above, you’ll want to either tighten up, or make sure the hand you’re playing is for value in case you’re called.

Against Short Stacks – You’re going to have less fold equity against shorter stacks because they don’t have a lot to lose. They’re going to have to take a risk at some point if they want to stay alive in the tournament. So make sure that if you raise or shove into these players that you have something worth showing down.

When You Are Too Short – When you have a short stack you will have less fold equity against regulars (good players). They know you’re shoving wide, and will widen their range slightly and isolate you, in attempt to build their stack. So ideally, when you shove it’s against short-medium stacks and unknown / not good players.