Fit or Fold
When I use the terminology "Fit or Fold" it is one that you will hear floating around the poker room every now and then. It refers to making a decision after the flop. In essence, does the flop fit or should you fold? It's just that simple.
Let's talk about when it "Fits".
One thing about poker in comparison to some other games, like checkers, chess, monopoly, backgammon etc, you do not know and cannot see what your opponent can play against you. The game in itself is designed around partial or reduced information. You are basing your decisions on what cards you hold versus what cards you hold and what cards you see your opponent holding. You try to "put them on a hand", but, you have nothing to physically see.
You have already decided to look at the flop, by calling, raising or just because you were the big blind and were already in the pot. You should be looking at your two cards and thinking about what kind of flop you will need.
When the flop hits you, it will do one of these things:
- It will increase the value of your hand
- It gives you a great drawing hand
Be advised that you will not get to participate in every flop, so don't even try. Also know that there are a very limited number of times that the flop will fit your hand. When it does, you want to get the most "bang for your buck" that you can. This means you will want to get as many chips as you can out of the other players.
- For example, you hold the 9 J in the big blind. You have 4 callers and you get to see the flop because they let you (no raises). Someone is really looking out for you this hand because the flop comes 8 T 7. You try to keep a candid face, as you have flopped a straight flush.
- Now what do you do? You are first to act. You want to give all 4 of your opponents every chance in the world to make the second best hand. So, you just check to them. Hopefully someone will have made a flush and will bet. If someone has the AK, then you are in for a great ride. If not, there is also a straight possibility out there. Someone holding the 9J of any suit will complete the current high straight as well as anyone holding the 69. It would be unlikely that anyone would have called on the 69, but one never knows in this game.
- Another hand has you holding the AT. You are in middle position. One person calls in early position and one calls in middle position before you. You elect to call. Everyone else folds but the big blind. What are you hoping you will see on the flop?
You would like to see clubs, as you would be holding the nut flush.
You also wouldn't mind seeing any paint cards such as the K, Q or J. If you were lucky, you might get all three. Then you would be holding Broadway, (Ace high straight).
If an Ace falls with a paint card you must be careful. There are 4 players, two of which called before you (one in early position and one in middle), and that means they might have a big pair or an Ace with a big kicker (i.e. AK, AQ, AJ).
There could be two clubs with an Ace. You have top pair, with a medium kicker. If no one bets into you with a really big bet, then you would be anxious to see the turn because you have a very good drawing hand. This means you have many outs.
This is a "no brainer" most of the time.
- You have what appears to be pretty good cards. Lets say a Q K. You are sitting in late position with 3 callers (one early and two middle). No one has raised. You call. The small blind folds and the big blind gets to see the flop. There are 5 players. The flop comes A 5 9.
- The big blind checks, and the early position player makes a substantial bet. The next two players fold. What do you do?
- What do you see the bettor having? Could it be an Ace or maybe two? He called from early position, which usually means he has a good pair or high cards.
You think to yourself, well, if he isn't slow playing, he probably does not have AA, KK or QQ because he probably would have raised pre-flop to try and limit the field or win right then and there. But, he could have a single Ace and maybe even clubs.
He came in with a big bet, everyone folded, and you have no draw to speak of. Your hearts are dead as there were none on the board. Even if you get a K or a Q, you will be an underdog to his Ace if he has one. You will be doing one thing and one thing only if you stay in this hand. The term is called "chasing". You will be trying to defy the odds by trying to beat a hand that is most likely better than yours. Not a good idea!
The flop did not fit your hand. It is plain and simple. Yes, those two suited connecting face cards looked very pretty pre flop. The flop hit, but it did not hit you. Fold.
- You are in middle position holding an 88. One early position caller before you. You call. The button calls. The blind gets to see the flop. The flop comes K K 3.
In a tournament, if there is any betting at this point, you need to release your hand. Of course if the big blind checks and the early position checks, you have a decision to make. Check or bet. There is still one player to act behind you. Of course, you are thinking, "I have 2 pair". Yes, you do. But, there can be all kinds of evil lurking around you. If you bet, then the late position player could raise you. If you bet, then the blind or early position gets to call you or raise you. Could they be holding another K and hoping someone will bet into them? If you can get by with a check, then you get a free turn card. If anyone bets, you must release your hand. You were looking for an 8, and you did not get one.
There are some things to remember when considering your hand and the flop. Sometimes you get a flop that offers many possibilities for you. You might flop top pair, with a straight draw and a back door flush draw (you have to get running suited cards on the turn and river). This makes your hand much stronger than if you looked at each of its parts. Don't overlook this. Don't be tempted to focus only on the obvious.
- For example, you could have the 9 T. The flop could come 7 8 9. You have the top pair, and could make three of a kind by catching another 9. You have 8 outs for a straight, and you have the backdoor flush possibility.
- You hold the KQ as in the previous example above. The flop comes K 3 8. You wonder what anyone would be holding that would make them a good hand here. You hold top pair, with a high flush draw. If you catch another K, then you have three of a kind and if you catch a Q, you have top two pair.
As you can see with these two examples, you have what is called multi-way possibilities. Always look at the sum of the parts of your hand when you see the flop. Try and see how many ways you could improve. Don't get hung up on only seeing you have top pair.
In Texas Hold'em, once you have seen the flop, as I continue to drill into your head, you have seen 71% of the cards that will potentially make up your hand. After you have practiced reading the board and making decisions about whether to play or fold, always be aware of what other hands might beat you if you get the cards you are hoping for. Second best never gets the chips.