MCU poker tip: Don’t surrender without checking

Many poker players have acquired the habit of folding a hopeless hand, rather than checking, on the final betting round. That typically happens when the situation is heads-up and the folding player would have checked and folded if bet into or lost in a showdown.

It seems like a time-saving act. Why go through the motions? So, I’ll tell you why.

No chance
Here’s the situation. It’s just you and a single opponent on the last round of betting. When players have no chance of winning, they sometimes fold prematurely, instead of checking, thinking, ”What difference could it make?“ Well, it could make a difference and it sometimes does.

To an observant opponent, it means that when you don’t throw your hand away out of turn the next time, you’re more likely to have something worth calling with. Right?

So? So, among other things, this means your opponent won’t bluff as often when you check medium hands that are worth calling with, and you’ll lose out on opportunities to call and make profit. When you do call, you’re more likely to lose, because your opponent will bet a higher proportion of bigger hands relative to bluffs.

Damage

And it’s all because you previously threw away hands out of turn. You wounded yourself. The damage was self-inflicted.

You see, it’s important to go through the motions of checking and making your opponent decide what to do. Let’s say you have missed everything on the river in seven-card stud. You have king-high nothing, and your opponent has a pair of tens showing.

This is a time you should check and make your opponent act before throwing your hand away. Even though it probably won’t matter this one time, it possibly will matter in the future, if your opponent realizes that if you had a very weak hand, you would likely have folded prematurely. He understands, therefore, that now you’re more likely to have something beyond a hopeless hand.

Additionally, there’s a tiny chance that if you go through the formality of checking, your opponent might throw away a very weak hand without bothering to see the showdown. And then you win automatically, because that player made the mistake that you avoided.

So, check and wait for your opponent to act. Don’t surrender early. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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