When to fold in Poker

Stu Ungar, Scotty Nguyen and Archie Karas are some of the most famous poker players of all time. They knew when to fold and when to keep playing, and they made fortunes. Unfortunately, at some point in their careers, they also folded when they shouldn’t have. They lost it all. 

This isn’t uncommon. Poker, like any other casino game, is about knowing when to act. Whether you’re playing online poker or poker in a land casino, there are no guarantees. However, if you know what to look out for, you stand a chance. 

Before you venture into this exciting casino game, you should have a good understanding of the basics of folding in poker. Learn to read the signs that it’s time to concede and know the strategies for making the right decision to fold. 

The basics of folding in poker

First things first. What is folding in poker? It means to let go of your hand and surrender the game, and therefore the pot, to the other player or players. 

You can fold by waiting for your turn to play and then throwing your cards into the “muck,” which is the other discarded cards at the table. 

As you do so, say “fold” or some variation of the same and place your cards face down. If you were to show the other players the hand you are folding, it would give away the game. 

You may hear some refer to it as “mucking your hand” or “mucking your cards.” These are poker terms that essentially mean the same thing as to fold. 

When you fold your poker cards, you’re out of the game. You cannot have them back and rejoin the action. 

Some players get folder’s remorse because they left a little too early. As they watch the rest of the game, they realize that they could have won if they kept playing. 

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do. You have forfeited the game, and the dealer cannot give your cards back. 

But why fold at all? Why not hold out till the end of the game and see what happens? Good poker players know that folding isn’t giving up; it is a strategy. 

Folding isn’t so much about the hand you’re holding; it’s more about your long-term plan for the game. Folding is about using your bankroll wisely and wagering when you stand a good chance to win.

You can fold poker cards in several hands and still walk away with the pot because you knew exactly when to step away. Folding is for players who have a long-term strategy. 

If you aim to play one or two hands and bow out, folding isn’t something you should worry much about. However, if you have your eye on the pot and plan to play till the end, giving up a few hands along the way may be the way to go. 

Poker newbies often ask whether experienced players fold. The answer is yes, they do. If they have a bad hand, they know it’s best to step away rather than keep adding their money to a pot they know they cannot possibly win. 


Some of the most common reasons for folding in poker include:

  • A player has a hand that they cannot improve. 
  • They know they have the worst hand, and they have a bet coming up.
  • Players often fold when they cannot tell whether they are ahead or behind and they have the option to make a big bet or wait it out. 
  • A player can also fold when it looks like someone else on the table will make it too expensive to keep playing, their turn is coming up and they aren’t sure of the hand they’re holding. 

The poker fold may be described as a way of dealing with uncertainty in poker. Of course, there is no certainty in any gambling game, but there are different levels of uncertainty. 

If yours surpasses a certain level, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Step away and let the others finish the game. It saves your bankroll, and you can play for longer. 

Just as there are times when you should fold, there are times in any poker game that you shouldn’t. These include:

  • When you have a hunch that you’re holding the best hand.
  • When you think you have the worst cards but have the best odds to call a draw.
  • When you’re trailing but you have a good bluff.
  • When you can check.

    Sometimes, players are hesitant to fold because they are thinking of the money they already have in the pot. How can they give it away without putting up a fight?

That is one way to look at it, although the important thing to always remember is that so long as you don’t have a good hand, the more you play, the more you lose. Better to lose a little bit of money early than keep playing and lose your whole bankroll. 

You may be wondering why experienced players like Ungar, Nguyen and Karas lost it all at some point. Why didn’t they fold and wait for a good hand?

There are so many reasons why pro poker players lose. Sometimes, it is a matter of ego; they worry about how it looks if they step away from a hand with a significant pot. 

Players sometimes lose because they are willing to take extreme risks. They keep playing in the hope that something will change that will give them a better hand. 

In some cases, it is a simple miscalculation. They let their guard down and keep playing when they shouldn’t. 

For new players, it is a good idea to bet small amounts so that whether you fold or stay, your losses aren’t too big. 

Signs that it’s time to fold

We have already mentioned in passing when one should fold in poker, but let’s go into it in a little bit more detail. What are the signs that it is time to step away?

When you have a bad hand

This one seems rather obvious, but what is a good hand, and what is a bad hand?

Certain card combos are likely to win. They include the royal flush, which is five consecutive cards of the same suit. They are arranged in order from 10 to the ace. 

A straight flush means the player has five cards of the same suit that are not a royal flush. Four of a kind is another excellent hand. It means you’re holding the same card in four suits, with a fifth card that is higher than the rest.

When a player has a full house, it means there are three cards of the same value from three different suits and an identical pair of two different suits. 

When a player has five cards of the same suit, it’s called a flush, and they don’t have to be in any particular order. Two players can hold a flush at the same time. When that happens, the player with the highest value card wins the game. 

When you have a straight, it means that you’re holding five cards of consecutive numbers from more than one suit. 

Three-of-a-kind means that a player has three cards of the same rank but from three different suits. 

A two-pair is when one has two pairs of cards of matching rank, while a pair is two cards of similar value but from two different suits. 

All these combinations may sound confusing, especially if you are a beginner. Don’t worry; they will get more familiar with time. The important thing is to practice. The more you play, the more you learn about the different hands that can help you win a game. 

Does it mean that if you don’t have any of these combos, you ought to fold? Not quite. Every hand is unique. If you think what you’re holding can help you take the pot, don’t give it up yet. Stay in the game and see how things work out. 

When you’ve gone through your bankroll

A bankroll is the amount of money that you set aside to gamble in any casino game. It helps you set your limits. It is important to be disciplined about your bankroll; if you go beyond it, you may end up losing money that you need. 

Poker can be deceptive, especially if you start to win early in the game. It’s easy to be lulled into the sense that you have a winning streak and that you should keep playing. 

You must always remember that poker has no guarantees; it is a game of chance. You can win several hands in a row only for you to start losing. 

If you must keep playing, play with the money you have made so far. Think about it as profits that you are willing to re-invest. Don’t forget that you may lose, so you should be cautious with every bet you place. 

When you’re up against a strategist

This is all about observing the people at the table. Some players are gung-ho and insist on playing every hand. They don’t care whether they win or lose; they are just having fun. 

You shouldn’t be quick to fold against such a player because they don’t have a strategy. They keep hoping that every hand they play will win. If you persist, you should take the pot before very long. 

However, if you are faced with an opponent who is all quiet and pensive and then suddenly puts in a reasonable ante, it may be time to fold. They have studied their hand, and they have something up their sleeve. 

When playing against uptight players, it isn’t a good idea to bet large amounts unless you are sure you are holding a winning hand. Such players are usually holding a winning hand, waiting for the pot to get big enough so that they can take it. 

If the game gets too rich for you

We have all heard of players who gave up their car or their Rolex or something else of vital significance to stay in a game of poker. If you find yourself there, it is probably time to fold. 

Players who keep egging you on to keep playing are likely holding winning cards, and they are just waiting for you to raise the ante so that they can take it all.

Strategies for making the right decision to fold

The best strategy for knowing when to fold is observation. The best poker players take in all that is happening around them. 

Tells may not be much good when you are playing online poker, but they are one of the best strategies for face-to-face poker games. 

Most people, when they know they have something worthwhile in their hand, will give it away with a tic or a smile or a scratch. 

If you play poker for long enough, you learn to recognize players who have a good hand and those who don’t, and it can be a great strategy for knowing when a poker fold is nigh.

Another strategy is to have a general awareness of the cards that have been dealt and played in a game. 

Each suit has four ranks, and there are 52 cards in a deck. You may not know all the cards that have been played, but you can keep track of the ones that are relevant to the hand you’re holding. 

Lastly, if you are playing online poker, be sure to choose a reputable casino that provides a secure environment for players and a variety of poker games that you can choose from. 
Resorts Casino in New Jersey is one of these. Not only does it have a wide selection poker games for you to try your hand at, but player information is also closely guarded using the latest encryption. The casino provides several convenient ways for you to withdraw your winnings, and you can drop in to play with top casino influencers.

Author: Tanya Fields

Campaign Acquisition Manager Length with RC: 1 year, 9 months Favorite Casino Game: Starburst Background in iGaming: Opened the iGaming Department at Hard Rock Atlantic City in 2018 in both Customer Service, and then CRM, prior to moving over to RC in January 2021 Location: Based in NJ at the RC HQ Content: Occasionally, but only as it pertains to RC